These are words I had voiced in prayer to the Lord, seeking His guidance and strength to be an unashamed witness in whatever storms I may face in this life. I had watched people grasp for answers and alternative treatments while trying to grab a few more days, weeks, or months of life in the face of a terminal diagnosis, and I knew I wanted to live with an eternal focus fixed on Christ and the gain of heaven.
My opportunity came on September 16, 2016, when I heard my doctor tell me I had aggressive cancer. The prayers I had prayed for strength and courage to face life’s uncertainties had bolstered my faith and prepared me to bear witness to God’s goodness as I walked this difficult road. Over these last eight months, my wife Sheila and I have learned three principles that have proven true time and again during my diagnosis and treatment and over the whole course of our lives.
#1: TOTAL OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD IS OUR ASSURANCE OF SALVATION AND THE BEST PREPARATION FOR THE STORMS THAT MAY COME.
I like to say that my doctor called on September 16, but God called on September 17. For years Sheila and I have walked through the MacArthur Daily Bible together. In the face of the news I received the previous day, I was met with these words on September 17 – “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). That morning my wife and I settled on three prayer points during my cancer journey:
• That God would be glorified in the process
• That God would lead us to the right treatment
• That I would greatly love and serve my wife through the journey
We shared these points with friends and family as we sought the Lord in each area and surrendered to His will and His lordship over the details.
#2: PATIENT, PRAYING BELIEVERS ARE BLESSED BY GOD WITH STRENGTH FOR THE TRIAL.
Our path to treatment was not smooth, and God’s will is not always the road of least resistance. We came up against many roadblocks, detours, and delays – yet all were sovereignly used of God to answer that second prayer point and lead us to the best treatment option. After coming up short on my initial route for treatment, I began researching proton therapy and, more specifically, the pencil beam approach. I learned that Scripps in San Diego leads the way, but that a center in Knoxville (much closer to home) is one of five in the nation that specializes in the pencil beam therapy.
During my initial interview and marker placement in Knoxville, I was given a much more extensive and effective treatment plan than I had initially received in the early days after my diagnosis. As I spoke with the doctor in Knoxville, I could tell he “wasn’t from around these parts,” so I asked him about his background. As only God could ordain, my physician was in Knoxville for a brief time to help with their caseload – on loan from Scripps in San Diego. All the detours and delays had been part of God’s plan to increase faith, strengthen us for the trial, and put us in the exact spot for treatment – with a doctor on loan from the nation’s top pencil beam treatment facility! In addition to all of that, God moved on the hearts of His people, and my treatment was completely paid for in a way only He could orchestrate.
Though the delays with insurance companies and treatment facilities were frustrating, we could see the hand of God in each step. Keep trusting God as you pray and seek Him in the storms because I’m living proof that He gives strength to those who take Him at His Word.
#3: GOD IS SOVEREIGN, AND HE IS WORKING BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER THE STORM. WATCH FOR HIS HAND!
It’s been said that when you pick up your sword to fight for yourself, God puts His down. Cancer was not the only battle we faced over the past few months. While Sheila and I were in Knoxville for treatment, the town where we live and serve was devastated not once, but twice, by tornados, storms, and straight line winds. It was difficult for us to be so far away from Albany as our community was hurting and in turmoil. On top of that, the “storms” hit even closer to home when my younger daughter’s house was broken into. I couldn’t be right there for her within minutes, and this father felt helpless. I was tempted to pick up my sword to fight, but God kept reminding me, “I don’t need you in Albany. I’ve got Albany.”
In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (4:17). We are reminded that God controls the severity and duration of our trials, and He sees the end from the beginning. Warren Wiersbe notes, “God has His eye on the clock and His finger on the thermostat.” During this time, the Lord kept our focus outward on others and not merely inward on our own circumstances. A friend contacted us who knew of our hearts’ desire to give generously to others. This person allotted a sum of money for Sheila and me to give away at our discretion so that we could continue to experience the joy of giving, even through a trying season. At every turn, we watched God working in ways we had never imagined.
After all we’ve seen and experienced and learned from the Lord, there is one question that echoes in our minds: Are we more like Jesus today than we were on September 15, 2016 (the day before my diagnosis)? Clearly we have seen evidence of life change and growth in godliness in four areas:
1) We have a deeper intimacy with the Lord.
2) We have a deeper intimacy as a couple in our marriage.
3) We have a greater heart and ministry for the suffering.
4) We have a more keen understanding that every moment of time we have is like a diamond that is slipping through our fingers and can’t be regained. We must live intentionally.
God is true to His Word, He keeps His promises, and He never fails His children. It is our prayer that our testimony will challenge fellow believers to build their lives upon the rock, anchored to the Word of God by the power of God through the Spirit of God.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matthew 7:24-27
I’m proud to announce my friend Jan Harrison has released her second book, “Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name.” This new book is a study of the names of God and why it’s important to know the Lord intimately, by His names and attributes.
Jan’s book covers ten names of God: Elohim, El Shaddai, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Rophe, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Roi, El Olam, El Elyon and Adonai.
Jan invites her readers to dig deeper into the meaning of God’s names, examining how each one applies to our relationship with Him. Each chapter corresponds with a biblical character’s story and includes a short study section with summary questions or thoughts and a specific prayer.
One of the passages of the book I think will be especially encouraging to women is the study of Jehovah Jireh and how He has provided everything we need through Christ.
Jan writes, “As long as we are determined to provide for ourselves and self-protect, God can’t provide. Jehovah Jireh isn’t your backup plan, He is your plan.”
“When we finally surrender our dreams and treasures and we trust God to provide, we realize His things are so much better. But first we have to let go. We have to release that stubborn, fearful, human grip on our circumstances and give it all to God.”
Throughout the book, Jan references God’s character and lessons learned not only during heartache and pain but in all seasons of life. She discusses how the Lord met her in some of her darkest personal trials.
Whether you need the Healer Jehovah Rophe, the peace that only Jehovah Shalom offers or the provision of Jehovah Jireh, “Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name” is a great reminder of His faithfulness to His people.
“In times of uncertainty, there is absolute certainty when you call on God as Creator (Elohim), Provider (Jehovah Jireh), Healer (Jehovah Rophe), Peace (Jehovah Shalom), Shepherd (Jehovah Roi), and more.”
To purchase “Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name” by Jan Harrison, please The Source Bookstore at Sherwood Baptist Church or visit Jan’s website here.
Have you ever gone through a season of physical or emotional pain in which you needed God’s healing grace?
I’d like to share a new book my good friend Edward W. Hellman recently wrote and published: “Healing Grace.” Ed, who is an esteemed orthopedic and spinal surgeon in south Georgia, wrote this book for those who are discouraged from dealing with physical hardships such as chronic pain, emotional distress, cancer and other illnesses.
The first half of the book is a 40-day devotional (with a bonus day!) that uses Scripture to encourage and uplift the reader in hopes of drawing him/her closer to the Father.
“In some ways, each of us is a pastor and the sermons we preach include not only the words we speak but how we live our very lives,” Ed writes.
In the second half of the book, Ed provides 12-part biblical instructions for going through physical hardship. The sections include choosing your foundation wisely, preparing, resting, claiming your inheritance, praising and going forth in the Spirit.
Medical professionals can see up to one hundred patients a day, so Ed witnesses many people suffering.
Ed writes, “My prayer is that in reading this, you will be greatly encouraged and that the encouragement you receive will be a blessing to you but also that it will be so overflowing that it will flow out of you to others, so that they may reap the blessing as well.”
You may purchase “Healing Grace” at The Source Bookstore, located at Sherwood Baptist Church.
Five Ways God Speaks to Us
When counseling young couples, I explain that in general God speaks to us in five ways, including prayer, the Bible, teaching, worship, and through other believers. The first two ways are typically disciplines that we participate in through one-on-one time with the Lord, while the other three are typically found through attending church and fellowshipping with other believers. This is why I believe regularly attending a local church is so important… Without being around other believers and being under regular teaching of God’s Word, we could potentially be limiting the ways that God communicates with us.
Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
2. The Bible:
2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
Psalm 150: Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
Philippians 2:9-11, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
5. Through Other Believers:
Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”
Daily Audio Bible
For the last 15 years, I have made it a discipline to read through the Bible each year. Recently, in addition to my regular Bible reading, I have enjoyed a new, interactive way to listen to the Bible. The Daily Audio Bible is a podcast that was made available by Brian Hardin.
The Daily Audio Bible has been available since January 1, 2006, and has broadcasted a daily Bible reading every day since then, reading through the Bible completely each year. Not only is this daily broadcast available by podcast. It can also be streamed live from dailyaudiobible.com.
As this program has grown in popularity, it has also become a large community for its listeners. With over 64 million downloads to date, listeners can share their struggles and prayer requests on the website, while others offer up prayer and support. Some prayer requests are even featured at the end of the daily broadcast for the entire community to participate in interceding on the behalf of other listeners.
The founder of this community, Brian Hardin has his own blog describing his journey into this ministry, and showcasing other ventures as an author, musician, and artist.
You can find his blog online at BrianHardin.com.
The following are the houses I grew up in they are all in Eden, North Carolina. I wish I had a picture of the first house I ever lived in but it burned to the ground. It was a two bedroom house that my parents had been renting when I was born.
This is a picture of the second house I lived in:
It was on Flint Hill street. You may be able to tell by the picture, but this was not the neighborhood that was envied by others at my school. In fact, being from the Flint Hill area was a running joke with other kids my age. I lived there only as a toddler and don’t have any memories of this house.
This is a picture of the third house I lived in:
The third house I lived in was a two bedroom, log cabin style home. This home was located right above Tacky Branch, and I attended first grade at Lakeside Elementary while living in this house. I could easily walk from here to my grandmother’s house, or to school. Since we lived there the logs have been covered with siding, but I assure you the logs are still underneath the new siding… I’m not trying to go Abe Lincoln on you, but I thought this was a cool house. I have fond memories of eating my mom’s pinto beans in this house… She is one of the best cooks I know.
This is a picture of the fourth house I lived in:
The fourth house I lived in was during my second grade year, and was on Primitive Street. We rented this house from my Uncle “Woody” McBride. He lived only two houses down, and it seemed like our backyard was always full of carnival equipment. This house is where I also started my first construction job. My dad once brought a load of sand into the backyard shortly after I had received a Tonka truck for Christmas. I decided to haul loads of sand around the outside of the house and constructed a one foot path completely encircling our house.
This is a picture of the fifth house I lived in:
I lived in this house throughout the third and fourth grade. It was on Virginia Avenue, and I attended North Spray School while living there. It was while I lived in this house that I discovered my love for football and joined the Shields Knight Arco Oil Company Team. When I was nine years old, our team won the city wide Super Bowl. I continued to play with many of my team mates all the way through high school, and still keep in contact with some of them today.
This is a picture of the sixth house I lived in:
In the early 1970’s my parents bought their first house, and paid a whopping $12,000. It was on Pervie Bolick Street, and was within walking distance of my Junior High and High School. My Uncle “Smoky” moved in with us. He worked with us for decades in the carnival business. When my parents went to work the Carnivals, my sister would stay with our aunt, and I stayed home with Uncle Smoky. I have many fond memories of playing chess with him, and I still have the Bible he gave me for my sixteenth birthday. It is one of my most prized possessions to this day.
This is a picture of the seventh house I lived in:
Sometime around my 9th grade year we moved to our house on Von Ruck Street. I finished out my High School career in this house, and lived there until Sheila and I got married. Years later we ended up buying this house, and it became the first house we owned as a married couple.
Whether in a personal relationship or a professional setting, maintaining boundaries is necessary in order to guard and protect a person’s reputation and integrity. A concept that I learned from Nicolas Ellen is that many relationships follow the natural progression of the 5 T’s. Being aware of this transition is an important tool in guarding your heart.
Time- Time is typically already a factor in most professional relationships. In addition to time spent inside the work place, also consider travel time or time alone in a vehicle with a co-worker of the opposite gender. As a rule, I never travel in the car alone with any female other than my wife. Taking this precaution will keep you and your co-workers above reproach.
Talking- Again, in most work environments communication is necessary. However, we are always aware and in control of the subject matter that drives our conversations. Ask yourself if your conversations are work related. If not, it is important to watch out for phrases like, “I feel like I can trust you with anything.” This type of comment made during a professional conversation may indicate that your co-worker has a blurred perception of the boundaries in your relationship.
Transparency- After a lot of time and a lot of talking, some professional conversations can cross into the realm of transparency. Warning signs of this sort of boundary being crossed include phrases like, “I have never told anyone this but…” or conversations that become extremely emotional and are confidential in nature. This sort of conversation may include discussion of family problems, troubles with a spouse or significant other, and other conversations that are shared with discretion.
Trust- After the previous boundaries have been crossed, a sense of trust forms. This is not referring to a professional trust, but trust of a personal kind. This sort of trust allows a co-worker to feel comfortable confiding in another, without regard to the appearance of the interaction. Often time’s men and women interpret this stage of the relationship differently. A woman might realize that she is in this stage of “trusting” another person, while the man might think that they are just participating in conversation. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to, “avoid every appearance of evil.” It is our obligation to guard our hearts.
Touching- It is my hope that through the awareness of this progression, one would be able to properly navigate professional relationships, and avoid compromising their reputation through this stage of the relationship progression. Remember, “A good name is to be valued above great riches.” –Proverbs 22:1.
Have you ever thought about the Ascent of Money?
Money can be an elusive element in the society around us. This ever present aspect of our lives can be the source of happiness, a measure of success, or the cause of major frustration and stress. Money is a part of our daily lives whether it includes buying or selling services, borrowing and lending, investments, and many other actions that permeate our daily lives. It has become commonplace to carry currency in our wallets or purses, whether in the form of cash or electronic cards, but have you ever considered the history and evolution of currency as we know it? In Niall Ferguson’s book, The Ascent of Money, the history of finance and trade is explained. In a particularly interesting section of the book, the evolution of currency is closely examined
The section starts with the story of the Inca Empire, which existed about five hundred years ago, and essentially functioned without currency. While the Incas did find value in precious metals like silver and gold; labor was the typical unit of trade. Their Empire closely resembled a Communist society, but failed after an explorer named Francisco Pizarro discovered the land and desired to monetize the precious metals that were found in abundance there. This great empire is now the land of Peru.
During Pizarro’s conquest, he and his army were able to collect over 13,000lbs of gold and 26,000lbs of silver. Shortly after Pizarro’s death, an Indian named Diego Gualpa discovered a mountain that contained solid silver ore, and made a decision that would change economic history. The mining of the silver in this area was a strong industry and lasted nearly two centuries. Of course, his natural response to finding such large amounts of metal, particularly silver, was to manufacture coins and currency.
Even before silver was discovered in Peru, currencies were made from several different materials including clay, bronze, silver, gold, and any other material that held value for trade. Unfortunately, whether with precious metals or with the modern dollar, the intrinsic value of any currency fluctuates with its availability in the market. For example, if a market is flooded with currency, the value of that currency tends to drop due to its high level of availability.
Currency has come a long way from clay tablets and coins made of silver. Now on a daily basis trades occur with a currency that is not even tangible. With electronic transfer of funds, investments and purchases can occur internationally in a matter of minutes. Goods and services can be purchased online without either party making contact with cash. Ferguson reminds us that in the end we are always placing our trust in another party to deliver quality goods and services that meet our expectations. No matter what the form of currency may be, there is a certain level of faith involved when an individual is expected to pay their debts, deliver products, and offer the consumer a quality experience.
For more info on the history of money and finance, check out Niall Ferguson’s book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
As I finalize the “Leadership Thoughts” series, there is one term I would like to clarify. In the past three posts I have mentioned the term “Servant Leadership” many times. Although I am sure this term isn’t foreign to most, few can simplify the concept quite as eloquently as Mark Miller. Through his blog greatleadersserve.org, and his book “The Secret” Mark provides the perfect tool to help leaders SERVE.
Leadership concepts are abounding. A student of leadership could effortlessly uncover theories to support any style. For instance, the autocratic leadership style will find the leader as the ultimate source of power and authority. This sort of leadership might be attractive to a new leader as they test the boundaries of their ability to influence. At the other end of the spectrum there are organizations developing the concept of self-directed work teams. Within this concept there is no appointed leader, and each team member has the opportunity to step into an influential role. Read more
I have always been an avid reader. Many people enjoy hunting, fishing, or golfing, but I have found my hobby in reading books. My love for books is not only in reading (although I can be found reading up to five books at once), but also in browsing bookstores. I enjoy exploring the shelves to stay up to date on popular books, both old and new. Because of my love for books and reading, I would like to offer 10 book recommendations for 2014. Of course, as a person who loves to read books, I can’t help but mention the importance of reading the Bible. It’s not worthwhile to read any book if I’m not grounded in “The Book.” My first recommendation is a Daily Bible that sets the pace to read through the entire Bible in 365 days. Be sure to share your thoughts and comments on these recommendations!
The MacArthur Daily Bible: John MacArthur @johnmacarthur
On July 18, 2014, I will have read through the Bible every year for 15 consecutive years. During those 15 years I have used several different One Year Bibles. I have found The MacArthur Daily Bible to be the most enjoyable because of its added daily commentaries. It is a great tool for personal study, as well as small group discussions.
A Passion for Souls: Lyle W. Dorsett
A Passion for Souls is one of my favorite biographies. This book follows the life of D. L. Moody, from his salvation in the back room of a shoe store, to the legacy of five ministries that still exist over a century later. This testimony is inspiring to read as it illustrates a life that was completely surrendered to God’s Will, and has been an encouragement in my walk with the Lord.