In the Machine

by Linda McMillan

As I mentioned in a recent post, my wife, Linda, was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. As she has been going through chemo and radiation treatments, the Holy Spirit has given her some powerful insights, which she has written down and I am now publishing on my blog. I pray you will be blessed by them. Pastor Roy

“I will be with you, and I will protect you wherever you go.” Genesis 28:15.

This is the Scripture verse chosen for me for 2020. I was not able to make it to Evangel’s New Year’s Eve service, so my husband, Pastor Roy, put his hand in the basket with the Scripture cards and “randomly” chose one for me. I say “randomly” in quotes because I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit led him to this card.

And God has been keeping this promise to me. Throughout my cancer treatment, I have felt the Lord’s presence with me. As I lay in the radiation machine used to treat my GYN cancer, I look up at the ceiling and see a cutout in the shape of a cross. I am reminded that Jesus loved me so much that he took my sin upon His shoulders, went to the cross, defeated death, and rose again so that I could have eternal life. I know that He is with me in that room.

From that cross in the ceiling emanates a green beam. Tiny tattoos on my body are lined up with the beam so that I will be in perfect alignment with the machine, which then can deliver the radiation at just the right angle. I am reminded that when I line myself up with the teachings of Jesus, I am in perfect position to receive the Lord’s blessings and to bless others.

The machine that delivers the radiation is comprised of three large arms, one with a camera to take CT images of my pelvis, another with a panel to reflect the images to the technicians in the other room, and a third with the instrument that delivers the radiation. I am reminded of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and feel a sense of peace enveloping me.

As I watch the camera click away taking the images of my pelvis, I am reminded that I am created in God’s image. Then, as the panel that reflects the images to the technicians passes over me, I am reminded that I am to reflect the image of Christ to others. Finally, as the arm with the instrument that delivers the radiation passes over me, I am reminded that just as the radiation is eradicating any remaining cancer in my body, so must I allow the Holy Spirit to fill me and eradicate anything that is not pleasing to the Lord.

The Cross: Foolishness or Wisdom?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

On a hilltop called Abbey Craig, overlooking Stirling in Scotland, there stands a tower known as Wallace Monument. Within the walls of that tower are a number of stained glass windows, including one of a Scottish knight, a great warrior who was a central figure in the battle for Scottish independence from England. That warrior’s name was William Wallace. Wallace was born around 1270 in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland, to a wealthy landowner. At the age of 27, he began his efforts to help his country break free of British rule. After years of leading troops in battle, Wallace was captured on August 5, 1305 and executed. Wallace was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Despite his capture and death, and despite the fact that Scotland did not win its independence until 1320, fifteen years after his death, William Wallace is recognized as a martyr and a national hero in Scotland. His heroism was glorified in the 1995 movie, Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.

Just as Scotland needed to be set free from English rule, we needed to be set free from the chains of sin that held us captive. But this was not a battle we could win on our own. We needed a leader, a warrior King, who would lead us to freedom from our sin. That leader, that warrior King, would be God’s promised Messiah. And that promised Messiah was God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who was born not to a rich landowner, but to a poor, virgin girl named Mary. Jesus began His ministry, His mission to secure our freedom from sin, at the age of about 30. He did not lead troops into battle but after three years of teaching His people, healing the sick, and giving sight to the blind, Jesus, like Wallace, was captured and executed. He was beaten, tortured, and nailed to a cross.

Crucifixion was a humiliating, shameful form of death and not the way that the world would expect a leader, a warrior King, to die. In fact, in the eyes of the world, the message of the cross is foolishness. The idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews, who expected a Messiah who would lead them into battle against their enemies and free them from their oppressors. And, the message of the cross was foolishness to the Gentiles, who could see no wisdom in it (1 Corinthians 1:23). But to those of us who are being saved, who are receiving salvation and freedom from the chains of sin, the message of the cross is not foolish. It is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The message of the cross is the message of salvation. William Wallace’s death did not achieve his goal of bringing freedom to Scotland. But through His death on the cross, Jesus, the Savior King, the Son of God, did accomplish what He was sent for by His heavenly Father. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. For those who are being saved, who have chosen to believe in and follow Christ, this humiliating, shameful form of death has broken the chains of sin that held us captive. Just as there were those in the first century who viewed the cross as foolishness, there are some today who similarly hold that view. To them, the cross is a sign of weakness. Yet for those who have received the salvation it brings, it is anything but. Rather, it is an instrument of the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:25 explains this beautifully, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Reflection on 2019 and a Peace that Surpasses Understanding

2019 was an interesting year (to say the least!). It was a year when, for my wife, Linda, and I, a lot of good happened and a year when some really bad stuff happened, as well. On the good side, my spiritual journey, as I walked into ministry, was amazing. I became a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and am now on staff at Evangel Church, serving as Community Life Pastor. As I have obeyed the call that I felt on my life through the Holy Spirit, God has opened so many doors.

On the bad side, there was the issue of Linda’s health, beginning with a back problem, then diverticulitis, and finally, the worst part of it, a diagnosis of cancer. That diagnosis came out of left field. I can still recall the day that Linda called to give me the news. I was at a meeting at church when she called, and all I can remember is feeling numb. It was totally unexpected! But then, something amazing happened. After that initial feeling of numbness, came a sense of peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I’ve read those verses many times but, until that moment, I did not truly understand the deep truth of those words. But in the face of that difficult news I had just received, I completely understood it.

Sure, there have been a couple of times since hearing that diagnosis when I have found myself shedding tears. After all, my best friend this side of heaven had cancer! But any anxiety over it has been given to God. Both of us prayed rather than become dismayed. And many of our family, friends, and church family have joined with us in those prayers. We have called upon our God and, with grateful hearts for all that He has done, and the knowledge that He hears our prayers, we have asked Him to help us, and have asked that His will be done in this circumstance, this situation in which we find ourselves. And His peace, which our human minds cannot even fathom, has and still is guarding our hearts and our minds.

There are days when we feel a bit weary, Linda especially so. The driving to and from treatments, the treatments themselves, and the waiting to see how those treatments will deal with the cancer can sometimes threaten to push us in the direction of anxiety, worry, and fear. But our faith prevails. We know that we serve a faithful God, a God on whom we can cast those anxieties, worries, and fears, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Our enemy wants us to worry, but we continue to resist him, standing firm in our faith because, although we may suffer through this cancer, He will restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10). Amen!

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Peace & Joy

Peace. Joy. These are two words that we see often at Christmas time. We see them on cards that wish the recipient “peace” and “joy” at Christmas. We see them on Christmas decorations, and we hear them in countless Christmas carols. We may even see them on “ugly” Christmas sweaters. And, of course, we see them in the account of the Christmas story itself. In Luke, chapter 2, an angel of the Lord appears to a group of shepherds and announces that he brings “good news that will bring great joy to all people.” And after the angel delivers that good news, an angel army appears, giving glory to the God who sent them, as they announce that this good news, the birth of the child born to be the Savior of the world, brings “peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Because of the birth of that little baby in a manger in Bethlehem, both joy and peace were brought into the world. But sometimes we don’t sense that peace. Sometimes we don’t feel that joy. Sometimes the circumstances of life crowd out the joy and the peace that we know we should feel because Jesus became a man and brought the gift of salvation to mankind. Sometimes we just don’t feel peace, instead focusing on our own inner turmoil or the external turmoil that surrounds us. Sometimes we just don’t feel like being joyful because of the trials that we are going through due to illness, relational problems, or financial problems.

In July of this year, my wife, Linda, was diagnosed with cancer. Following tests and eventual surgery, we discovered that not only did she have a rare and aggressive type of cancer, but she also had a second unrelated cancer. Tough news to hear. News that could easily rob us of our peace and wipe away the joy in our lives. But it didn’t. Despite the news that we received, our faith has remained strong. We both feel peace in this situation we find ourselves facing. And, despite the fact that the road ahead is a difficult one, we still have joy in our lives. We have joy and we feel peace because we know that we serve a God who is in control, a God who cares about us and loves us, a God who has a plan for us, a plan that will never harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). We have joy and feel peace because our God is faithful, and because, rather than leaning on our own, limited understanding, we have made a decision to trust in God and His ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In his letter to the church in Philippi, the apostle Paul gave us the words that explain the joy and the peace we feel and why we feel it. In Philippians 4:4, Paul told us that we should “Always be full of joy in the Lord.” He emphasized the importance of this when he said, “I say it again–rejoice!” The joy that we feel does not come from our circumstances, it comes from the Lord. In our case, it comes despite the circumstances we are facing. It comes because we know have made Jesus the Lord of our lives.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul went on to say, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Rather than worry about this cancer diagnosis, we have instead gone to prayer about it and have been lifted up in the prayers of our church family. We have brought the diagnosis to God and thanked Him in advance that His will in this situation, His good and perfect will, shall be done. And, just as Paul wrote, we have experienced that peace that exceeds our own understanding. That peace has guarded our hearts and our minds, standing sentry to keep away thoughts of fear, anxiety, and worry.

As we go through this Christmas season, Linda and I know the difficulties that we (and especially she) will be facing during the months of chemotherapy and radiation that lie ahead. But we go through this season in faith, knowing that our joy and our peace will be there because of the One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day. We pray the same joy and peace for all of you!

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God Never Forgets

Born on Christmas Day in 1642, Isaac Newton was one of the greatest geniuses in history. Besides being the inventor of calculus, Newton also discovered the laws of gravity and of motion, and performed important work in the areas of optics and mechanics. In short, Newton was brilliant! But, did you know that this brilliant man also was absent-minded?

Newton was known to lose his way while heading home for dinner, despite the fact that he lived at the college in which he worked. Friends of Newton would sometimes find themselves frustrated and thirsty when Newton would go to his room to get a bottle of wine for them to drink. “Why?” you ask. Well, when Newton arrived at his room, he would forget why he had gone there and instead would sit down to work, forgetting all about the friends who were eagerly awaiting his return with the wine. Newton truly was an example of an absent-minded professor, a person who possesses amazing knowledge but often forgets the simple, most fundamental things.

The God of heaven and earth is omniscient, He knows all things. His brilliance far surpasses that of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, or any of the greatest minds of history. But God does not forget the simple things. He does not get so lost in lofty thoughts that He forgets the fundamental details. He does not forget His people when they are waiting on Him. Take Noah. Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, built an ark based on God’s instructions and then got into that ark, along with a menagerie that would make the Bronx Zoo envious, while outside it rained for forty days and forty nights. The resulting flood covered the entire earth, leaving Noah’s family and their floating zoo sailing the floodwaters for 150 days (Genesis 7: 24).

Now, I can imagine that a boat filled with up to seven pairs of every animal that walked the earth, plus any that were born to those pairs of animals, would have become uncomfortably smelly (and quite noisy!) after 150 days. I can also imagine that, after that amount of time, Noah and his brood had probably begun to think that God had forgotten all about them. I can imagine Noah looking up into the heavens and saying, “Hey, God, it’s Noah. Where are You? Have You forgotten about us?” But look what it says in Genesis 8:1…

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede.

God had not forgotten about them. He had not gotten so caught up in something else He was doing that He overlooked the needs of Noah, Noah’s family, and all of the animals who had joined them on this extended ocean cruise. God remembered and caused the waters to recede and, in time, they all left the boat and began life anew, being fruitful and multiplying the earth just as God told them they should (Genesis 9:1).

There are times in life when we may think that God has forgotten about us. Maybe it’s due to an extended illness. Maybe it’s because of a long period of unemployment. Or maybe it’s because we are in a dry season in which we are not sensing God’s presence in our lives. In those times, it may be easy for us to say “Hey, God, it’s me. Where are You? Have you forgotten about me?” In those times, we need to remember that, unlike Isaac Newton, God is not an absent-minded professor. We need to remember the story of Noah and remember that God never forgets. He is in every detail, and when the time is right, we will see Him move in our lives.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Shepherd Leader

Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. (1 Peter 5:2-4)

Among the oldest occupations is shepherding, which began some 5,000 years ago in Asia Minor. A shepherd is a wage earner, being paid to tend, herd, feed, or guard the herds or flocks of sheep belonging to others. In order to maintain a large flock, the shepherd needs to ensure that the sheep entrusted to him are able to move from pasture to pasture. It is the duty of the shepherd to keep that flock intact, to protect it from predators, and to guide it to the market in time for shearing.

When it comes to the church, leaders are like shepherds. In fact, when referring to those to whom leadership of God’s people is entrusted, Scripture often refers to them as shepherds. Jesus even referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd, a shepherd leader who was willing to lay down His life for His sheep. So, for those in any form of leadership in the church, it is important to model the Good Shepherd while caring for the flocks that have been entrusted to them. This is true for pastors, for elders, for deacons, for ministry leaders, and even for small group leaders.

Being placed in a position of leading God’s people is an awesome responsibility. So, how are we to lead? The apostle Peter gives some excellent advice in 1 Peter 5:2-14, where he gives us the what, why, and how of leading the people that God has placed in our care.

In verse 2, Peter gives us the “what” when he writes, “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.” Just like a shepherd, a leader has been given oversight over a flock. It could be a church congregation, a ministry team, or a small group. The size of the flock is not important. What is important is that God has entrusted the leader with that flock, and what the leader needs to do is to care for it. Just as a shepherd must keep his flock intact, those God has placed in leadership have a duty to care for the flocks entrusted to them by keeping those flocks intact. They do this by helping the flocks to stay focused on their walk with Christ. And as the shepherd must protect the flock from predators, leaders must protect those in their flocks from the enemy by helping them to recognize spiritual attacks and false teachings, and to know how to stand in the face of these things. And finally, as the shepherd must guide his flock to the market in time for shearing, leaders must guide their flocks, through the Word of God, so that they reach their destination, eternal life with Jesus.

The “why” of leading God’s people is also found in verse 2, where Peter points out that those entrusted with leadership of God’s people should do so willingly and not for personal gain, for what they will get out of it. Doing so can easily lead to watching over the flock grudgingly and when a leader watches over the flock grudgingly, it can have negative results such as resentment or burnout. Rather, leaders should watch over the flock willingly and because they are eager to serve the God who has placed them in leadership.

Finally, the “how” of caring for God’s flocks is found in verse 3, where Peter writes, “Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own example.” Being placed in leadership over God’s people doesn’t mean that a leader is better or superior to those under his or her leadership. Leading with an iron fist, or by looking down at the people being led, is not the way that God wants the shepherd leader to lead. A shepherd leader should lead by example. But, in doing so, leaders should be a reflection of the example shown by Jesus Christ, the true servant leader, a leader who came not to be served, but to serve.

Leaders need to lead like Jesus, the Good Shepherd. When they do, they will experience something that is worth more than all the gold on earth. Peter tells us in verse 4 that “when the Great Shepherd appears,” those who lead well, who lead like Jesus, will receive “a crown of never-ending glory and honor.”

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Looking Past Wind & Waves

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. (Matthew 14:22–32)

Storms are an inevitable part of life. Sometimes we can see them coming, but often they take us by surprise, seemingly coming out of nowhere. And, although we may not see it as we are fighting against the wind and the waves that are tossing us to and fro, the storms we face in our lives serve a purpose. They help us to see that, no matter what storms we face in life, Jesus is right there with us, ready to help us to look past the wind and the waves. God’s Word tells us that He will be with us through deep waters, that when we “go through rivers of difficulty,” we will not drown (Isaiah 43:2). Jesus always comes to us in the storms of life. When things look bleak, when hope is all but gone, He is always there, just waiting for us to reach out and take hold of His hand.

In Matthew 14, the disciples are in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, heading toward Capernaum. Jesus is not with them, having stayed behind to pray. While the disciples are making their way across the water, a stormy gale kicks up and the disciples find themselves fighting against the wind and the waves. But, as they do, Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. Jesus is walking right through their storm. Jesus had already shown the disciples that He had dominion over the storms of life when He calmed a storm in Matthew 8:23-27. And, now He was once again showing them that the storm that they faced was no match for Him as He walked to the disciples’ boat on the surface of the water – waves, wind, and all.

Peter was the first one to get it, although he apparently still had some doubts as he said, “Lord, if that’s really You, command me to walk on the water toward You.” And, when Jesus did just that, Peter took that step out of the boat, set his eyes on Jesus and walked on the water towards His Lord, forgetting about the wind and the waves that still surrounded him. When the storms of life begin to swirl around us, our first reaction may be to look to Jesus and, with some doubt in our hearts, pray, “Lord, if it’s possible, help me to walk through this storm I’m facing.” And then, like Peter, we set our eyes on Jesus and begin to make our way through the storm.

But, as he walked on the water towards Jesus, Peter took his eyes off his Lord and began to focus on the storm. Why? Maybe there was a sudden bolt of lightning or a loud crash of thunder that pulled Peter’s eyes off Jesus and set them on the storm that was still raging around him. Whatever caused Peter to once again focus on the storm and not on Jesus doesn’t matter. What matters is the result. When Peter began to allow the storm to become his focus, he began to sink. When we are facing a storm in life, as long as we keep our hearts and our minds focused on Jesus, He will help us walk through that storm. But when we allow doubts to creep in, when the storm once again grabs our attention, just as it did Peter, the storm will begin to pull us down. But there’s good news.

As Peter began to sink into the waters of the Sea of Galilee, he called out for Jesus to save him. And, as he did, the hand of Jesus reached out and pulled Peter back up. Holding onto Peter’s hand, Jesus walked Peter through the storm and back into the boat. In the midst of our storms, if we let doubts and fear creep in and pull our focus off Jesus, all we need to do is call out to Him. He will take us by the hand and will walk with us through the storm. In John 16:33, Jesus told us, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We will face storms in our lives. But, when we look past the wind and waves and focus on Jesus in the midst of those storms, we can take heart. Jesus has overcome the world and He will help us to overcome those storms.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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