Believing in Jesus means that we are willing to trust God with everything that we have.

Published in: on November 17, 2015 at 6:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Believing in Jesus means that our chief pursuit is no longer comfort, but Christ.

Published in: on November 16, 2015 at 6:31 am  Leave a Comment  

This morning Pastor Daryl punched the devil in the face.

Published in: on November 15, 2015 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Believing in Jesus means that when we mess up, we don’t make excuses or try to justify ourselves; instead, we confess our faults and rely on nothing but the sacrifice Jesus has made for us.

Published in: on November 15, 2015 at 7:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Believing in Jesus means that our day is no longer made by compliments or destroyed by criticism, because we know that we are the beloved sons and daughters of God.

Published in: on November 14, 2015 at 6:28 am  Comments (2)  

Just Thanks

Some of you out there must be praying for me, because yesterday–for no other discernible reason–was my first day in nearly a month not needing pain meds.  Looking so far like this might be day number two.  So whoever you are, THANKS!!!!  Prayer works! To God be the glory.

Published in: on March 12, 2015 at 8:33 am  Comments (2)  

Death of a Christian

                Yesterday I posted a comment online that has raised some questions and objections.  So I thought I would take a moment to clarify what I meant.  I wrote: “Saying a Christian lost a battle with cancer is like saying Jesus lost a battle with a cross.”  When someone dies from cancer, it’s very common to say they “lost a battle with cancer.”  But such a view is not only defeating and even insulting—it’s also incorrect.

                In its most literal sense, such a statement cannot be true biologically because cancer necessarily dies with the body that it kills.  Cancer is like a suicide bomber: in order to kill, it has to die.  It’s not as though cancerous cells claim a victim, then grow stronger and transport to a different person.  When the person’s body dies, the clock is ticking on how much longer that cancer has until it dies as well.  But this literal interpretation is actually the least of the problems with this popular saying.

Another problem with saying that a Christian lost a battle with cancer is it implies that he or she has somehow failed, as if they should have done something better or differently.  The simple fact is that the mortality rate among human beings is 100%.  Dying doesn’t mean we’ve been defeated or lost a battle—it means we’re human.  To say that someone lost a battle with cancer, or with any illness, is to suggest that they should have somehow transcended their humanness and defiantly attained immortality.  When there’s a battle, the outcome is not predetermined.  Through superior strategy and force, either side can claim the victory.  With certain diseases, however, there’s nothing the patient can do about it.  They can receive treatments and do everything else in their power, but sometimes a fatal illness is just that: a fatal illness.  There is no battle to be won; there is just an outcome to accept. 

                But what if the Christian did not want to die?  Let me ask: Does a newborn baby want to leave the womb?  No infant would want to willingly leave the comfort, security, and familiarity of the womb.  So would we say that a newborn baby has lost a battle with the womb?  Of course not.  They have simply entered this world as every person does.  A Christian who dies is born into a new phase of life, a life that is absolutely perfect and will never end.  I assure you there is not one single person in Heaven who regrets being there and wishes they could go back.  After all, the old saying is true that this world is as close as a believer ever gets to hell and as close as an unbeliever ever gets to Heaven.  That being the case, why would a Christian want to go back? 

                Another problem is that it is theologically incorrect to say that a Christian who has died has lost the battle.  Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  We are encouraged in Hebrews 12:2 to look to “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The cross is what stood between Jesus and His throne.  Death is what stands between us and eternity with our King.  If something helps a person break through that barrier, how can we say they’ve lost any battle with it?

                Jesus directly addresses this issue in a conversation with a woman whose brother has just died.  He says to her in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  That question is left hanging out there for us today, challenging us to answer it honestly. 

The clearest statement in Scripture which details the victory that the Christian has in death is probably 1 Corinthians 15:54-57: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

                Whenever I die, whatever it is that kills me, please please please do not say that I lost any battle.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Death has lost its sting because God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Cancer loses.  Death loses.  We win.  Thank You Jesus.

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Memorable Ministry Moment #5

In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, some memorable ministry moments:

The fifth ministry moment, and the last one for this month, happened late at night and consisted of a phone call lasting all of about eight seconds.  It was January 2, 2012.  Carolyn, Laura Marie, and I had been in Northern Virginia for a few days, celebrating Christmas with the Hyde crew.  We got home about 10:00 that night.  Sometime around 11:00 or so, Linda called to let us know that hospice had called her and told her she should go there.  They didn’t think Steve would make it through the night.  It was late, we were physically and emotionally exhausted, and we had a two-year-old that we couldn’t exactly cart off to a hospice room in Salisbury.  Not many options at that point, and none of them convenient for anybody.  I picked up the phone to call a good friend who lived nearby.

Memorable Ministry Moment #5: Mary-Michele coming over late at night, with no notice and no discussion, to stay with Laura Marie for an unknowable length of time.  Mary-Michele Davis is a veteran teacher at the Training Station, Carolyn’s co-teacher, a longtime friend, and a neighbor.  When she picked up the phone, I started trying to explain what was going on.  I got as far as, “Sorry to call this late—” and she cut me off with, “When do you need me there?”  I stammered, “Well, we could use someone now.  Linda just called and—”  Mary-Michele cut me off again.  “I’ll be right there,” she said.  “You can explain later.”  And with that, she was off the phone and out the door.  Even when she arrived about one minute later, she wouldn’t hear an explanation—she shooed out the door.

Upon our return several hours later—it was probably between 3:00-4:00 a.m.—Mary-Michele asked if we needed anything.  Then she said, “Get some rest.  I’ll call you later.”  And with that, our hero left us alone for a few hours’ sleep.

I don’t remember what time we got back home that night.  Steve passed away around 8:30 that morning and we headed back over, this time bringing Laura Marie along with us.  What I do remember is that eight-second phone call that will last a lifetime, that brief conversation that said—loud and clear—I’m here for you.  No matter what, no matter when.  Just call.

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 6:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Memorable Ministry Moment #4

In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, some memorable ministry moments:

The fourth moment is one that powerfully impacted me during what may be the single worst moment of my life.  On October 3, 2011, one of the world’s best brain surgeons told us that my 58-year-old father-in-law would not live much longer.  After he performed surgery, he informed us that the diagnosis (and therefore prognosis) was the worst scenario possible.  When I rode down the Johns Hopkins elevator with Steve’s wife, two daughters, and the other son-in-law, we reached the waiting room where about 15 of the most supportive friends imaginable sat waiting.  Carolyn and I couldn’t bring ourselves to go in, so we zombied our way down the hall to the chapel.  She sat down and I ran over to a trash can to throw up.  We sat there for awhile, simultaneously devastated in a nuclear-bomb-ground-zero kind of way, while also grateful for eternity to an extent I’d never experienced.  After some indeterminate amount of time (there’s no such thing as time in moments like that), we knew we had to return to the waiting room.  Upon arriving there, I collapsed into a seat as the full force of this new reality barreled me forward like a plane touching down on the runway.

Memorable Ministry Moment #4: Being held up by Dad and LJ at the weakest moment of my life.

Steve Doherty and my dad shared a first name, a granddaughter, and a completely selfless love for their children and children-in-law.  Dad had taken the day off to be with us at Hopkins.  LJ Timmons was one of Steve’s closest friends for nearly 20 years.  He spent his birthday there in that waiting room with the rest of Steve’s friends and family.

As I sat down in the seat between Dad and LJ, I lost it.  I’ve never been in a place quite like that, before or since.  It was like falling down a deep, dark hole and wanting desperately to at least drag against the sides to slow the fall, but being completely unable to do so.  Dad was on my left, LJ on my right.  They were both going through this, too, yet they were able to reach out to me.  Dad squeezed my left shoulder while LJ firmly grasped my right.  And they stayed like that for a long, long time.  While I was completely unable on my own to slow my fall, it was like those two men were pulling me back up one strenuous tug at a time.

I don’t know how long they stayed like that.  And the hard reality is that the year that still lay ahead would be hard and painful.  Even so, those two men holding me up like that at my lowest point ever was a sacrificial ministry I will always remember.

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 6:31 am  Comments (3)  

Memorable Ministry Moment #3

In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, some memorable ministry moments:

The third incident took place on one of the scariest days of my life.  It was February, 2011.  I was home with Laura Marie.  Her grandparents, Steve and Linda Doherty, were visiting.  Laura Marie was sick and had been to the doctor just that morning.  It was around noon, and I was feeding her lunch as she sat in her highchair.  Since she had been running a fever, it was a great relief to me that her temperature was normal when they checked it a couple hours before at the doctor’s office.  Because Laura Marie had a febrile seizure about six months before, we always kept a close eye on her temperature, and it was very stressful whenever she was sick.  On this day, I decided to check her temperature as she ate lunch.  It registered 104.4.  I didn’t see how that could possibly be right, so I checked my own temperature.  Normal.  I checked Laura Marie again.  Still 104.4.  My heartbeat spiked just as my daughter’s temperature had.  I distinctly remember telling Steve and Linda, “I’m really surprised she hasn’t had a seizure.”  About two seconds later, her eyes rolled back in her head and it began.

Memorable Ministry Moment #3: Steve and Linda carrying me through the scare of my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s second seizure.  With one finger I scooped out the strawberry she was eating, while the other hand unclasped the straps holding her in her highchair.  I carried her into the living room and laid her down sideways on the floor as she convulsed and stopped breathing.  Steve called 911 and kept them on the line as I performed CPR on my baby girl.  Meanwhile, Linda gathered some things for Laura Marie so we would be prepared for her ambulance ride and short stay at the hospital.

The ambulance arrived in literally about three minutes—the first responders in Ocean Pines are truly amazing!  As I clutched onto Laura Marie during the ambulance ride, I remember telling God that I was not going to be okay if I lost her.  (I was still panicked by how quickly her temperature shot up, and I didn’t know how high it might go.)  But I was not the only one on the line with Heaven: Steve and Linda were praying, too, as they followed right behind the ambulance.

Once we arrived and Laura Marie was tended to by Dr. Jeff Greenwood—a wonderful physician who suffered from febrile seizures as a child—Linda stayed with me at the hospital while Steve picked up Carolyn from work and brought her over.  Dr. Greenwood took great care of Laura Marie, answered our questions, and offered encouragement.  And we brought our baby girl home, where it was another day or so before her temperature stayed consistently below 103.

Every day throughout the rest of the week, Steve and Linda found some excuse to stop by… always around lunchtime.  They didn’t need an excuse, of course, but they wanted to reassure Carolyn and me by not admitting they were checking on the baby.  Every single day, they just happened to be in the neighborhood (about 45 minutes away from Steve’s office), or we had left something at their house (and the junk mail that had come two weeks before with Carolyn’s maiden name on it just couldn’t wait), or Steve had to bring me a copy of a great article he’d read.  No matter how crappy Laura Marie was doing, Steve and Linda assured us that she looked great and was acting like her normal self.

Their ministry to Carolyn and me throughout that whole period was helpful in a way I could never express.  But the part I will always especially remember is that when it happened, they were there.  And they knew just what to do.  If they had not come by that day, I would have been alone when it happened.  My mind won’t even let me go down that road.  A truly unforgettable ministry moment.

By the way, some good and bad came out of this experience.  The bad: My mother-in-law now shares our seizure-related PTSD issues.  Ever since then, whenever Laura Marie gets sick, the anxiety strikes Linda.  The good: I am now basically required by law (mother-in-law, that is) to notify Linda every time Laura Marie gets sick.  Why?  Because she prays.  No ministry is greater than that.

Published in: on October 29, 2013 at 7:17 am  Comments (2)