[The Initial Brain Tumor]
[Life Transformation]
[Post Surgery Healing]
[Spiritual Training]
[Trusting for Provision]
[A Life Sacrificed]
[Spiritual Warfare 101]
[Passion for Ministry]
[Advanced Warfare]
[A Physical Healing]
[Leaking Brain Fluid]
[Update - A New Tumor]
[Word of God Speak]

 Life Transformation

As I write this update in December 2009 and reflect back on my life over the past 5 years, it is amazing to me to see how much of a drastic transformation God has performed in my life.  In this section, I will go back and offer some very personal aspects of my testimony, briefly showing how lost and broken I was and how my Father started a new work in me.  In describing the events and circumstances of my transformation, it is my desire to illustrate how God changed me in hopes that someone reading this might be able to relate to these circumstances or experiences and let Jesus usher in drastic life change for them as well.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Let’s start off with a brief description of my life behind the scenes prior to my brain tumor diagnosis.

Prior to the Tumor
Before the April 2007 discovery of the tumor, I would describe myself at best as a very carnal Christian.  At the age of 46, I had attended church for most of my life and knew a bit about God.  I generally attended Sunday morning church services and sometimes Bible study during the week.  Whenever I was a member of a church, I was faithful with my tithes and offerings.  The key thing here though, was that while I knew a lot about Jesus, I did not truly know Him intimately.

During this time, one thing that characterized my life was a general lack of sensitivity to sin in my life.  On the surface, other people could look at me and think that I was leading a pretty clean cut and honorable life.  But the truth of what was going on in many of my thoughts and actions was far from wholesome or honorable.  Without going into great detail or in any way glorifying my life from these days, let me simply say that I had a pattern of stealing, lying, and sexual immorality.  In all of these cases of sin, I justified my actions to myself because I thought it was not a big deal or because “everybody was doing it.” 

At the time of my tumor diagnosis, I had allowed the above mentioned sin in my life to spiral out of control to the point where I had become so selfish and self-absorbed, that I actively contemplated going down a path that would have seriously hurt virtually all of the important people in my life.  I am convinced that as I contemplated driving off of this cliff, God in his sovereignty and infinite grace said “Now by goodness this has gone quite far enough” and allowed that tumor to manifest itself in my head as a firm way of getting my attention so that I might take Him seriously.  This tumor was a most merciful act from my Father that kept me from destroying myself.

I Want to Know Your Ways
During the first few days after I was discharged to go home from the hospital, the weight and impact of what had just happened to me began to have a profound effect on me.  I found that I had an irresistible desire to know God more than I had ever before.  One night I while I kneeled and spoke with Him, I told Him that I wanted to know Him more.  While there was no doubt in my mind that He had spoken to me, guiding and comforting me during the previous two weeks, I told Him that I wanted to really fellowship with Him and to know Him just as if He were physically sitting there with me.

Looking back now, my desperate plea to God that night, in addition to being like Moses’ response to seeing the burning bush, was also very much like what Moses said in Exodus 33:13 – “Now therefore I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight.”  When I asked this of Him there that night, His response to me was very clear and unambiguous. 

He first told me that there were some things in my life and specifically things that were in my house that I needed to get rid of.  I knew instantly and painfully what He was referring to because as I just said, I had allowed sin to exist in my life.  See the section below on the “A Separated Life.” 

He also told me if I really wanted to know Him, I could do so by reading that Bible that I had owned since 1980 without opening it very much.  He went on to tell me to go back and become a student of the Old Testament and I would truly come to know His ways.

Soon after this encounter, God answered my prayer to know Him with a very powerful blessing.  He gave me an insatiable appetite for His word.  Also, He gave me an anointing of the Holy Spirit there during those nights that really opened the Bible to me like it has never been before.  You see, the Bible that I had been keeping on my nightstand in the box and occasionally reading was a King James Version.  I didn’t own any other translation at that time and had just always accepted the fact that the Bible was difficult to understand.  But on these nights that I spent with Him, the written words seemed to jump off the pages of the Bible at me, taking on life and speaking to me in a way that I could clearly understand.  Back then I was not yet familiar with the content of Hebrews 4:12, but in those nights I experienced it in a real way that I will never forget.  Today I know precisely to what the writer of Hebrews was referring when he said the word of God was alive and quick. 

Pretty much from those nights in May 2007 until today, there have not been very many days where I have not been studying some area of the Bible.  The word has become for me an important element of my daily diet and I have found that I can not function well without it.  I begin to get spiritually weak and become more susceptible to my old to fleshly (selfish) behavior.

The Birth of a Real Prayer Life
During much of my life in church, I had prayed but, honestly, very seldom had I really seriously conversed with Jesus.  During one of the first of many late night encounters with Him, I found that I wanted to do much more in my prayers.  I wanted to be more effective and to know how to talk to Him.  I knew that somewhere in the Bible Jesus had taught His disciples how to pray, but I didn’t know exactly where it was (hey, I told you I had been in church through most of my life but was really not taking what I learned seriously).  So I asked my wife where I could find that passage and she told me to look in Matthew 6.  I went to my study and read and learned how to pray and talk to God.  I learned to include the elements of praise & gratitude, repentance, requesting, and submission in all of my prayers (just as Jesus had taught in the model in Matthew 6).

As I studied Matthew 6, when Jesus said to go into your closet and make your prayers in private, I thought “hey, I have a walk-in closet.”  So literally from that day even until today, I have been going into my closet early every morning to spend prayer and quiet time with God.  Moreover, God has shown me that it is a most powerful way to start my day.  From the beginning, God put a desire into my heart to start each and everyday with time in the closet with Him.  So as a spiritual habit, I have planned each of my days so that when I wake up, the very first thing that I do is typically spend an hour in my closet in prayer and quiet time.  This habit has proven to be very, very fruitful during these years as it has enabled me to be available with an ear to hear (that is listening) when Jesus has given me great things to do in service to His kingdom.

The Spirit-Filled Abundant Life – A Separated Life
As I mentioned earlier, when I asked God to show me His ways and let me know Him more, the first thing he told me was that there were some things in my life and in the house that I needed to get rid of.  You need to understand that up until this point, while I understood the concepts of good and evil & sin and righteousness, I did not have a sincere intolerance for known sin in my life.  As I describe this first step that God took to change me, please keep in mind that it was a major event in my life transformation process that made it possible for me to really see and be used by God.

While I thought that I lived a “pretty good” life and was generally a “good” person (I thought I was better than most) with lots of positive and righteous attributes, the truth is I did not take sin as a serious issue and comfortably went along in my life holding on to some of it.  More importantly is that I didn’t really understand just how seriously God takes sin as an issue.  I didn’t understand (just as I don’t think many people today truly understand) the full extent of the holiness of God.

For example, I had a problem with stealing things and then justifying it by saying things like:

1. It’s not a big deal…
2. What I’m taking has a value that is insignificant…
3. I deserve this because of whatever reason you want to insert here…
4. Everyone else is doing it… (at one point in my life I was a big user of Napster and Kazaa to get boot-legged music and videos)

Using reasons like these to justify taking from others, I had things in our home that ranged from illegal music and movies to computer equipment that I had stolen from my previous employer Verizon (I had quit my job 5 months earlier).  I had taken this computer equipment with the rationalization of I deserved it or they wouldn’t miss it.  I would suppress or ignore any thoughts about this behavior being a sin against God.

Another major problem that I was holding onto during this time was an obsession with pornography.  Hidden in our house were various things of an explicit nature including computer files and video movies.  These were things that I used to feel that I could not do without and would use in secret when I thought no one was aware.  I also used to get access to movies that were pretty explicit using regular premium movie channels (i.e. HBO and Showtime) during late night hours.  Of course even though I thought I was alone in secret, God had always been there as my actions had grieved the Holy Spirit.

Purging – Immediately after this conversation where God clearly pointed to things I needed to get rid of, I began a process of ruthlessly getting rid of (tossing in the dumpster) all the things that were in my house that I knew of that were displeasing to God.  I even prayed asking Him to show me anything that I may have overlooked or forgotten.  Nothing was held back, no area was off limits.  We went through our entire music collection (thousands of songs) and deleted everything that we could not trace to being purchased.

From that day forward, God began leading me through a journey that involved a process of sanctification (which means separation unto God).  This sanctification involved heightening my sensitivity to sin, developing a dislike for known and unresolved sin.  He also showed me areas in the Bible where the word says that He wants us to be holy (set apart from sin) just as He is holy.  During these initial days after the surgery, I made somewhat of a Nazarene vow – purposing in my heart that I would not cut my hair or shave my beard again until God was finished with the process that He was doing in me.  As time went on and I began to understand more about what God was doing in my life, I realized that this vow means that I may never again cut my hair.

Passion for Sharing God’s Plan for Salvation
Up until this point in my life, I had a general understanding of the good news of the gospel.  While I had at times encouraged people to go to church and to accept Jesus as their Lord and savior, I can not say that I had really deep knowledge or confidence in my ability to tell people why they should give their lives to Jesus.  Quite frankly, I also did not have a passion or sense of urgency for it either.

During these initial late-night sessions that I spent with God in my study as my family slept, He took me through a tour of my Bible and showed me the details of His plan for salvation in somewhat of a course that would prepare me for a task that He had for me.  As I mentioned earlier, during this process the words describing His plan seemed to jump off of the page at me and I had perfect understanding.  Along with this understanding, He would very soon give me some practical training opportunities to try this in life and would start to cultivate a passion in me for it like I had never had before.  I go into more detail about that training and development process in the section on Spiritual Training.

Transformation – A Life-long Process
Immediately after my surgery and experience with God, I initially thought that I was going through a change process that would be relatively quick in preparing me for something.  I was really excited about going out and “telling people” about what had happened to me and I thought this was God’s purpose behind the experience.  The truth is that the further I went along, the more that I realized the truth that is revealed in the Bible… the work that He is doing in my life (indeed in all of our lives) is a process that He will be performing for all of ours.  Looking back over the past 2½ years, I will admit to you that there have been times when I have allowed my arrogance to say “Well look, God has done a really good work in me and now I am pretty good.”  It has been at those times when God has revealed to me weaknesses in my flesh that always been there and will continue to be there until the day of the LORD.

However, in His grace, love and kindness for me, He is gradually transforming me, training me to be stronger in my ability to walk with Him in the spirit and not always fall victim to those things that our flesh (evil internal desires) long for us to do.

The bottom line to this section is that I have learned that I truly need Jesus and the Holy Spirit in my life everyday (indeed every moment) or else I can not help but fall back to the evil ways of my flesh.  Jesus used a phrase to describe this – “when a dog returns to its vomit.”  Without Him leading us, ordering our steps everyday and in every way, that’s what we are going to do.  I have experienced it.

Dying to Self
This was (and remains everyday) a large part of the life change that God is working in me.  Jesus called it picking up you cross and following Him daily – dying to yourself is one of the core components of the transformation associated with true life change.  It has always been so deeply ingrained in my nature (indeed in all of us) to be selfish and only motivated about pleasing or exalting myself.  This focus on elevating oneself is the essence of the original sin that Lucifer committed causing him to “fall like lightning from Heaven” (Luke 10:18).

The examples in my life of where I was selfishly motivated and always exalting myself are far too numerous to name here without writing an encyclopedia.  Suffice it to say that through a 20-year military career, graduate business school education, and fairly successful career in corporate America, I had mastered the art of thinking more highly of myself than I should have.  This culminated in January 2007 when I did something in my career that I never thought I would ever do… without giving any notice, I abruptly quit my job as an IT Audit Manager at Verizon.  At the time, I found and cited what I thought were very valid reasons for this action because I felt strongly that I was not being treated fairly by my boss.  But in retrospect, I had grown to be full of myself and was exhibiting rebellion against my boss.  Ironically, this occurred just 3 months prior to the discovery of my brain tumor (when God said “That’s enough!”).

I wish that I could say that immediately after I had my brain surgery and encounter with God, I was immediately changed and my selfish nature went away.  But that is not my testimony.  After starting a new job at Applied Materials in Austin, Texas, as an IT Audit Manager, once again I found myself in a struggle with exalting my will over the authority of my boss.  I found myself working for an IT Audit Director whose technical skills and experience were inferior to mine.  Even though I was in a newly intensified walk with God, I allowed my flesh to again well up a strong spirit of rebellion against my boss because in my mind, I was right and my boss was wrong.

Listen carefully to this everybody – God never condones or blesses rebellion against authority because all authority is from Him!!  During this process, I was fortunate to have an excellent accountability partner by the name of Mark Lumpkin.  Mark gave me solid godly advice, speaking the truth in love to me and telling me that I was wrong and needed to be humble and submissive to authority.  Mark’s words of wisdom and the conviction of the Holy Spirit led me to change my approach and submit even when I was later given an evaluation that I felt was biased, one sided, and could easily be contested.  The Holy Spirit led me to be humble, submit without saying a word, and to watch and see how He would bless me.  And continue to bless He did indeed as you will see as you continue to read the rest of this story.


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© 2009 Gerald L. Prater

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