Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Thanks for Saving My Life

Leslie Basham: Karen Melby remembers earlier this year, when her husband Scott walked up to his sister and uttered these words.

Karen Melby:“Thanks for saving my life." It was actually quite an emotional moment, and she got kind of teary. He had said it before, but that particular moment was just sweet. It was this sweet interaction between the two of them.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, October 21, 2015.

Thanksgiving can transform the most terrible of circumstances. We started exploring that with Scott and Karen Melby yesterday.

Scott was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Through a painful process of treatment, he learned a lot about the transforming power of gratitude.

Scott Melby: I thought if I could learn to be grateful . . . if I could learn to be thankful in this situation, I could learn to be thankful in any situation.

Leslie: Scott got out of the hospital, and our team recorded that interview with him at his home last year.

Scott: I’m just praying, “Help us not to miss any lesson that You have for us in this. We want to learn everything that You want to teach us through this entire process.” So, we still pray that today—that we won’t miss today’s lesson; and, “What’s this week’s lesson, that You want to teach us, Lord?”

Leslie: After that interview was recorded, Scott underwent a blood transfusion and had many more ups and downs. Tomorrow Scott and Karen will tell Nancy where they are now in this process. But today, we’ll hear a moving message Karen gave while Scott had just undergone the blood transfusion. The story really gets to the heart of the gospel in a fresh way.

Nancy will be back at the end of the program. First, let’s hear from Karen Melby.

Karen: Our story began back in August 5. My husband Scott had been very, very ill—just not feeling great—for several months. But it came to a head on that weekend, when we were out at our cottage on Lake Michigan. He just was feeling horrible.

That Monday morning he got up to go to work and I said, “Scott, you really need to go to the doctor.” So he did. He went in, and they drew blood. Long story short, I get a call from his physician who said, “Karen, we can’t reach Scott. He had blood drawn, and he needs to get to the E.R.”

Scott had gone home and was so weak and tired he had just fallen asleep—he couldn’t answer the phone. So I reached him. He went back to the Emergency Room, and they immediately admitted him. A week later we discovered that Scott had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

This was devastating news to us. We knew that we have a God who is a gracious God, and we trusted Him. We thought, Well, we’ll just take this one step at a time and trust God through this. We asked God to give us eyes to see this the way He saw it.

I’m thankful that that was our prayer, and that was Scott’s prayer. He wanted to hold on to God’s promises. He said, “Karen, this is not anything that is a surprise to God. He obviously had this as part of a plan for our lives, so we need to go forward trusting Him.”

We prayed all those promises. And through our tears—as I said—we begged God to help us to see it His way. The plan was that they were going to do aggressive chemo. I’m going to scurry through this part. He was in the hospital for close to eight weeks.

They gave him aggressive chemotherapy to rid his body of leukemia with the goal of a bone marrow transplant. That was going to be the only cure. They basically told him, “Scott, without a transplant, you will have about eight to twelve months. This is the only hope for you, a bone marrow transplant.”

“We’re going to proceed. Do you have siblings? We’re going to test your siblings.” And that was the thing, so we just asked God to show us direction. At that point, it really became a spiritual experience for us. Every day we saw God work, every day we saw God’s grace.

As we began to see this with new eyes, it was remarkable how God showed us that this is really, truly a picture of salvation. This is what God did when He looked at us and said, “Do you know what? You have a condition that you cannot cure.”

There are characters in this story, and I’ll start by showing you a couple of pictures. This is my husband, Scott, and he’s looking pretty good because he’d had a few weeks of rest before he went in. He’d had some chemo, but it hadn’t really hit him yet.

So, Scott in this story—if we want to mirror the story of salvation here—he’s the one in need of healing. In our story of spiritual healing, we all have a condition. Scott’s condition is that he has bone marrow that is diseased, and there’s no real way for that to be cured unless it’s replaced with a new marrow.

The other thing that’s interesting is that leukemia was the disease. In our lives—in our world—just like in God’s plan of salvation, we all have a sin condition that we can’t cure on our own. There are a couple other characters in our story . . . the doctor who is the one who actually had the plan. He’s the one who came up with a system to get Scott from sickness to health.

We had to trust the doctor. We didn’t know this guy at all, but we looked at his credentials and we said, “We don’t have any other choice. There is no possible way for Scott to be cured unless we trust this man, trust his credentials, and trust his experience.” So we went forward with that.

Then there’s another character in the story, and it’s Scott’s sister Dawn. She actually became a perfect match. When they tested his siblings, of the ten markers that had to be met, hers were perfect every single time. She became the perfect match.

Liken that with our story of God’s plan for salvation—He knew that there is nothing we can do that will do that will allow us to get from a sin condition to perfect healing. He had to send His Son, Jesus, who is the perfect match. And I’m going to talk a little bit more about that shortly as we get into Galatians.

At this point in the story, chemo is wiping out Scott’s bone marrow, and it’s a pretty dark time. The chemo is killing off everything, but he’s been infused with new cells that are going to give him life. Our story in Galatians, when we jump into this part of Galatians, Paul is talking about a new identity in Christ.

I just couldn’t get away from how cool it is that this is exactly what has happened to Scott. He has been given a new identity. In fact, when they test his blood, it looks like Dawn’s. It is Dawn’s DNA. But you know what else is very interesting . . . if they were to swab his cheek, it’s Scott’s DNA.

Scott is a blend of DNA, which is a really interesting medical phenomenon. When I told Scott that I was going to be teaching today and sharing our story, he asked, “What exactly are you going to talk about in Galatians?”

I said, “Well, it’s interesting, because in this passage in the story, in Galatians, the apostle Paul uses the word ‘justified’ or ‘justification’ six times in sixteen verses.” That’s an interesting thing that I keyed into and I wanted to understand that better. God, again, in His graciousness, helped show me what that meant in terms of Scott’s story.

So when I told Scott that I was going to talk about justification—and the importance of it, and the need for it—of course, with his good sense of humor, he said, “Well, that’s exactly what I’ve been telling you we need . . . 'just a vacation!'” 

Oh . . . let me talk about what that is for a second. First of all, let me read to you Galatians 2:16, where Paul says: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” There are three things going on there in that verse.

First of all, he says a person is not justified. You have to assume there’s somebody else doing the justification. The word “justification” is actually a legal term, a courtroom term declaring somebody innocent. You’re justified in those actions.

The definition of justification is, “to announce a favorable verdict.” The spiritual definition of justification is, “a declaration of righteousness.” That means that God sees us the same way that He sees His sinless Son. Is that not unbelievable, that God could literally see us the way He sees His sinless Son?

I don’t think I’ve ever understood the depth of that! When you think about the word justified, we get that—yeah, it means that you’re “right.” You’ve been told that you’re right. But—the deeper meaning—to not only be right, but to be as righteous as Jesus. How can that be?

Jumping back into Scott’s story, during that time post-transplant, there were probably about two weeks where it was just really rough. His bone marrow is dying off, and they’re basically bringing him to the point of death. I’ll never forget how hard it was to see him sign a consent form for the bone marrow transplant, knowing full well that what that said was, “If this doesn’t work—if the graft doesn’t take—you will die. You will have no more marrow left of your own that will rebuild itself.”

That was pretty sobering. So, here we are now—we’re waiting. It’s a couple weeks after the transplant, and he’s at his lowest point. All you can do is just wait and pray: “God, please, is this working? Help Dawn’s cells to be working. Heal his body. Get rid of the leukemia—let this new marrow heal his body.” That was our prayer. We were desperate, and we were anxious.

I would ask the doctor, “How will we know if it has worked?”

And he said, “Actually, we have a test that we do. It’s called a chimerism test. This test will actually measure (once Scott’s blood counts come up enough to measure) it will measure the amount of donor blood in his system. Then we’ll be able to tell the percentages. Based on those percentages, we’ll know how he’s doing.”

I was like, “Wow! That’s amazing! Okay. So when can do that?” We wait and wait until it’s time. They handed us one sheet of paper. This sheet of paper, basically, is entitled The Molecular Diagnostics Final Report. On here there are a lot of numbers and letters and columns that I have no clue what they mean.

But, in this one column it says, “percentage of donor.” And in every row underneath it: 100 %, 100%, 100%. Fortunately for those of us who are not so medically inclined, there’s an interpretation: “This post-transplant analysis detected 100% engraftment in the peripheral blood of the recipient, Scott Melby.”

This meant everything to us! It still does! It gives us peace; it gives us hope for a future. It tells us where Scott stands medically. What is his position with this whole engraftment and this new bone marrow transplant? What does it mean? It means everything to us.

Listen, this is what’s so exciting to me. This is our chimerism report right here. This Word—God’s Word—tells us where we stand in Christ. When the doctor looks at this report he says, “Scott, when I look at your blood, I see your sister. I see your sister’s blood, and your sister’s blood is clean of leukemia. There is no leukemia. You are healthy, based on 100% of your sister’s blood.” This is what justification is for us.

When God looks at us, when we have trusted Him as our Savior and we acknowledge that this is not by anything that we could have done, we have entered into salvation. Then God says, “This is what I see. I see my Son. I see your Savior’s blood on your life, and it’s perfect. There’s no sin there. It’s been justified.”

We have a new identity, and that’s what God sees. He looks at us, and He says, “Karen, I paid for that on the cross. That was killed back there when Jesus took care of it—once and for all.” To Scott, the doctor said, “Scott, there’s nothing you can do. You can make as many carrot and wheatgrass shakes as you want to, and you can take all the vitamins in the world, and you can detox your home. Those are all really good things, but they’re not going to get rid of the leukemia. You have to have a complete transplant.”

That’s what God says to us, and that’s what Paul was trying to get across to the Galatians. He was saying, “You can’t work your way into a saving faith.”

The Galatians were struggling because they were new believers, and they had these Jewish Christians coming in who were a little bit confused. They were stuck in their traditions. They wanted the new believers to do practices like circumcisions—and they wanted to dictate who they could eat with. All these things were law to them. They were so important.

And yes, they were important things. They were the things that kept them pure and holy and showed them where they were sinful.

But Paul is saying, “Didn’t I tell you, O foolish Galatians? I told you. Don’t trust in those things! Those are not the things that are going to save you. You need, basically, a transplant. You need to understand what justification is. You need to understand that you are justified, you are declared righteous, not by what you do but by what someone else has done. And it already happened . . . on the cross.”

It’s amazing to me. It’s an amazing declaration to literally be able to say that God sees me the same way He sees His sinless Son!

There’s a verse I want to hone in on now. It’s Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I think about this whole picture, and I think about what’s going on inside of Scott’s body. It’s no longer his blood and bone marrow that live in him—it’s his sister’s that lives in him. That is just an unbelievable miraculous medical miracle to me. Even more miraculous is that you and I, when we have Christ in us, He lives in us, and it is the life we now live we live by faith.

Scott’s chimerism is really great. As I said, it just gave us incredible peace and hope. It gives us hope going forward. But it doesn’t tell us how we should be living today. It doesn’t guarantee the future. It doesn’t tell us any of that really. It’s just one page. But the Bible tells us everything.

We get to know where we stood before we knew Christ; we get to read about where we stand today. That’s what this report is, it’s just today. But the Bible also gives us hope for the future. It tells us how to live. It tells us what our future is. It tells us our position in Christ tomorrow and for eternity. That’s what it tells us. But we have to recognize where we are in that story.

One of the things that was just so sweet was a couple weeks ago some of Scott’s family came to visit and his sister Dawn was at our house. After the long weekend that we were all together, Dawn was sitting at our kitchen counter. Scott came up next to Dawn and hugged her, just hugged her, and with emotion in his voice just sweetly said, “Thanks for saving my life.”

It was actually quite an emotional moment, and she got kind of teary. He had said it before, but that particular moment was just sweet. It was this sweet interaction between the two of them. I stood back on the other side of the counter just watching, and I thought to myself, Do I go to bed at night wanting to hug Jesus and tell Him, "Thanks for saving my life?" Do I wake up in the morning with that kind of passion and gratitude for being saved? I had to ask myself that.

It’s given us a lot of gratitude for life in a lot of ways, as you can imagine. One thing, too, that I wanted to just touch on, is that—you know, these days are difficult still. Scott has had a couple of hard days, even just last night. On those days he thinks to himself, Can I really do this? Can I really keep going? The journey back to health is hard.

I thought to myself, Isn’t that just like the Christian life, though? The journey is hard, but there’s sweetness and there’s grace along the way. What God really wants for us is not to be completely happy. He wants holiness. He wants us prepared and ready for heaven, and He has a plan to get us there. But we have to enter into it and accept the fact that He’s doing all the work.

There will be days when Scott says, “I wonder if it’s working? When do we get another chimerism report? When are we going to know if it’s still 100%?” We want to know his position. We want to know where he stands, because that helps us get through.

You know what? That’s exactly why God gave us His Word. Because we want to know that too, on bad days when you say to yourself, “I don’t think I can do this thing called the Christian life. It’s hard.” And it is! But there is grace abounding. God softens the blow. I don’t want to tell you that all the Christian life is like a journey through leukemia—it’s not. It’s blessed; it’s hopeful.

But if that’s where you are today and you’re struggling in your walk with Christ, that’s where this gives us hope. That’s where we say, “I have to remember who I am.” And that’s what Paul wanted the Galatians to know. He was so upset with these Judaizers and with the Galatians because he’s saying, “You’ve forgotten who you are. You’ve been declared righteous. You don’t have to do all those things. Just trust and follow Christ and live by faith and live in freedom.”

God wants us to live in freedom—He really does, and that’s actually what the rest of the book is about. He keeps hammering that thing about “it’s not by works.” But that’s why, because He wants us to live in freedom.

Leslie: That’s Karen Melby, helping us understand the gospel in a fresh way. Yesterday we heard from Karen and her husband, Scott Melby. He told us about those early excruciating days in the hospital. Through the pain and the life-threatening circumstances, Scott learned to focus on gratitude.

One way the Lord taught him that was through the audio book from Nancy Leigh DeMoss Choosing Gratitude. Let's reflect with Nancy for a few minutes as she talks about this important biblical concept. In whatever situation you are in, Nancy says, you're called to be grateful.

Nancy: So, how much gratitude should we have toward God? Super, super abounding gratitude? Abounding guilt . . . super abounding grace . . . and should not our gratitude be as great as the grace that God has shown to us? God has given us grace greater than all our sin, grace sufficient to cover all our guilt.

Our gratitude should be as great as the grace we have received. I think that’s why Paul said to the Colossians, in Colossians chapter 2:7, “[Be] abounding in thanksgiving." Be abounding in gratitude. The word is the word “overflowing.” It’s a word picture here of a river that’s overflowing it’s banks in flood season.

You just can’t contain the flood waters. That’s how great our gratitude should be. So Paul says, take a measure of how great was your guilt, and then measure how great is God’s grace, His mercy, His kindness, His forgiveness, His faithfulness. Whatever you’ve done in the past, however far you were from God, however great an enemy you were against God . . . He’s forgiven; He’s wiped the record clean; He’s given you a new life, a new start, a clean heart.

It’s abounding grace. And Paul says, “Take a look at God’s grace and see to it that you abound in gratitude.”

Leslie: That’s our host on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She’s been reminding you, whatever difficult thing you’re facing, gratitude will transform your perspective. I’m pretty sure all of us can apply this message to our circumstances today.

Do you appreciate the steady reminder of biblical truth you get on Revive Our Hearts? Would you help us continue to make the program available? When you donate any amount to the ministry, we’ll show our thanks by sending you the 2016 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme is “Cry Out.” The quotes from Bible teachers the beautiful artwork will remind you to be crying out to God in prayer through the year. We’ll send one calendar per household this month for your gift of any size. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit

Tomorrow, Nancy will talk with Scott and Karen about their journey through cancer and in increasing gratitude. She’ll update the story we’ve been hearing this week. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.