…and normally arrive about the same time. I learned that from my friend and one of my heroes, Ron Dunn. As I was thinking about the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I thought how true that observation really is. This decade has been filled with amazing stories. It’s also been a decade of tragic realities. We are no longer “safe” in America. September 11 changed the way we live. The rise of Islam, and particularly radical Islam, is something we will all deal with as long as we live.
In the last 10 years, I celebrated my 50th birthday. There is less time ahead of me than there is behind me. Whatever I plan to do for Jesus, I’ve got to get busy!
On the whole, as I look over the past decade, the good far outweighs the evil. God has proven Himself faithful. He has done exceedingly abundantly beyond what I could have ever hoped or imagined. Nobody expected much out of me when I was growing up. My pastor told me I would never be a “great preacher” and that I just needed to accept my limited abilities. My aunt Hazel said, “I never thought he would amount to much.” With a pastor and relatives like that, who needs enemies?
Anyway, I wanted to list a few of the blessings. God has allowed me to have some incredible experiences over the last 10 years. The list is not exhaustive (at my age, you forget a lot)—mostly good, some sad, some not so good, but maybe it will inspire you to reflect a little on your life at the close of the first decade of the 21st century.
• The death of Ron Dunn. There isn’t a day when I don’t think about Ron. What I would give to hear him preach at Sherwood one more time.
• The death of my father-in-law, E. B. Payne—a Korean War vet and former POW. I miss his laugh.
• The relationship God has allowed me to have with Warren Wiersbe, Tom Elliff, Bill Stafford, Roger Breland, Ed Litton, Ken Jenkins, and many others. These men have been a significant part of what God has done at Sherwood in this decade. I am eternally grateful for their prayers, support, and wisdom. They have marked my life and the life of Sherwood Baptist Church.
• The last TRUTH Concert—what I would give to see a reunion concert and tour. When Roger made me an “honorary member” on the last t-shirt, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. TRUTH was a strong influence in my life from the very beginning of my Christian walk.
• Both of my girls graduating from the University of Mobile. Watching them as they mature in their faith and walk with the Lord has been an encouragement to Terri and me.
• Erin’s marriage to Bill in October. We all had a lot of fun. Terri did an incredible job of pulling it all together for a memorable day in our family.
• The establishment of Sherwood Pictures. Who knew? I still can’t fully comprehend what God has done with our five loaves and two fish.
• Writing five books in the last four years: Prepare for Rain, Fireproof Your Life, The Power of Desperation, The Power of Persistence, and, coming in early 2010, The Power of Surrender. I’ve always loved writing but never dreamed I would get a chance to write books like this. Several of them have been translated into multiple languages.
• Starting the ReFRESH™ Conference. I never dreamed it would grow the way it has. God has always provided the resources we need and allowed us to minister to pastors from 15 states.
• Serving as President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors’ Conference in 2008 and preaching at the conference in 2007 and 2009. I love pastors, and I’m grateful I was given those opportunities to speak into their lives.
• Traveling across the country and meeting people at movie screenings, state conventions, state evangelism conferences, and local churches who are longing for God to work in new and fresh ways. I never would have thought those opportunities would come. I’m grateful for those who entrusted pulpits and platforms to me in Alaska, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nevada. I’ve met some of the finest people on the planet who serve the Lord without fanfare or applause.
• Three trips to Israel with two more coming in 2010.
• Terri and I taking the Lord’s Supper together alone inside the empty tomb in Jerusalem.
• Taking my girls to Israel and sharing that experience as a family. Baptizing both my girls in the Jordan River, as well as my son-in-law and his parents.
• Ten years of a church in unity and prayer. Deacons who love Jesus and serve alongside the pastor. A staff that I love dearly, and staff wives who are the best of the best.
• Building and finishing off the 82-acre Sports Park—buying the land, developing the land, and seeing thousands of people use it every year.
• Building the new Worship Center.
• My prayer group. John Dees and Ron Dorminey have been in my prayer group for nearly 20 years. I love those two men and am so grateful for their prayers and counsel.
• Our home away from home in Gatlinburg. I go there to study, reflect, and prepare my heart and life. I love the mountains. They do something for my soul.
There’s more that I could add, but that’s my list for now. Maybe you should sit down and make your list. You might find that with the perspective of time, your list will have far more positives than negatives. Whether you classify something as “good” or “evil”, it has been allowed or orchestrated by God for your good and His glory.
Think about it.
Redeem the time.
Live for Him.