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In Deuteronomy 6, Moses introduced the idea of gospel-centered parenting to the people of Israel. Now, upon hearing this declaration, you might say, “Wait…Jesus had not yet come, so the gospel had not yet been fully revealed.” True enough. But in Deuteronomy 6, we find the single most important declaration in Jewish life, the Shema. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV). How was one saved in the Old Testament? He believed in and loved the one true God completely. The same is true today. And we now know that the only way to truly love God with all of our heart, soul, and might is for us to receive new hearts and souls and to receive a new strength from the Savior who died to make us new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Moses went on to command Israelite parents to pass down the faith to their children by talking about God in all the parts of everyday life, by posting Scripture on the walls of the house, and by regaling their kids with stories of God’s faithfulness (vv. 5-25). If the parents taught their children to love God with all their heart and soul and might, then “it will be righteousness for us” (v. 25).
One of the most often quoted Scriptures on parenting is Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This promise is attached to the type of command Moses gives parents when he introduced the Shema. It was true for Israel and I believe it is still true for God’s people today.
Southerners like to say, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” This is a strange way to say that “you had to try out food in order to know whether it was good.” Allow me to point to Psalm 44 as proof that gospel-centered parenting works.
In verse 1, the psalmists (the sons of Korah) describe their parents’ faithfulness to teach them the way of the Lord: “O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old…” These men had learned from their parents’ testimonies that Yahweh is the one true God who performed great acts of grace. The parents were diligent to keep Moses’ command. They bragged on God. And what was the result?
Verses 1-8 form the testimony of the psalmists. Yahweh is their king; He is their hope; He will be their salvation. Hear the words of verse 8: “In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.” These men had learned to love God from their parents. The lesson took.
But the situation turns bleak in verses 9-16. “But you have rejected us and disgraced us…” We do not know what turmoil the sons of Korah experienced, but we know it was a serious test of their faith. Until the trials came, the writers lived out the faith of their parents. Now, things were about to get real. Would they maintain their faith in God? Would they abandon what their parents had taught them? Would their testimony remain in the face of real-world, adult problems?
Let’s see. Verses 17-18: “All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way…” The seeds of the gospel (that God delivers His people because of His steadfast love) that the parents had sown into the lives of their children had taken root and grown into a mighty tree (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Remember Deuteronomy 6:25? The parents’ teaching “was righteousness” for the sons of Korah. They trusted in the one true God for salvation!
In the face of trials, their faith was validated.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
God’s Word held fast in the sons’ lives because of the faithfulness of their parents.
I have seen this to be true in my own life. My parents raised my sisters and me in the Word of God. They continually testified to the goodness of the Lord. Their answer to all of life’s problems was Scripture. In our house, there was one true God, and His name was the seat of all our trust and hope.
Did they fail sometimes? Yes. Were they perfect? No. Was our house the most peaceful place in the universe? Definitely not.
But my parents loved the Lord and His Word. And they taught us how to love the God of Israel.
And…when tragedy struck in my life…the pudding still tasted good.
Through serious tragedy, my wife and I were able to survive and to remain steadfast in our faith. Why? Because we are strong and mighty warriors for God? No. There have been MANY dark nights of the soul in our house over the past two years. Our strength has failed us. It seemed like God had abandoned us at times. My ability to pray waned for a time. Bitterness fought to creep into our hearts. But God is good. I am so thankful to be able to say, like the sons of Korah, that for my wife and I, “Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from [God’s] way” (v. 18). I firmly believe that this is because my parents and Carmen’s parents were faithful to pass the truth of the gospel and the love of God down to us. And in the end, we have not departed from it.
And we have committed that, one day, Lord willing, we will teach this same lesson to our children.
Parents, teach your kids to love Jesus. Trust me, it works.
Carmen and I are happy to announce that we have begun the adoption process through International Family Services! Many of you know that the past couple of years have been very trying as we battled against cancer and infertility. We have spent much time mourning both the (temporary) loss of Carmen’s health as well as the (permanent) loss of fertility as a result of her breast cancer treatment. Now, to borrow from David in Psalm 30:11, we are eager to watch God turn our mourning into dancing! We are going to be parents someday!!!
We have submitted our initial application for adoption and are working toward completing our home study. Adoption is extraordinarily expensive, so we will be needing to do much fundraising to pay the necessary fees (up to $30,000) to bring our baby home.
We couldn’t have made it through our recent medical trials without your support, prayers, and help. In the same way, we won’t be able to complete this adoption process without your help. Here are three ways you can help:
1) Pray for us! This is the best gift you could possibly give us.
2) Second, spread the word about our adoption! Use the share buttons on this page to get your friends and family involved in our effort to bring home our first child. Share the video on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email and any other platform you can think imagine.
3) Third, consider donating to fund our adoption. This is a very expensive process, but we believe God will provide for all of our needs as we pursue His will. Why not join in what God is doing?
We will be posting several fundraising initiatives. Our first effort is selling t-shirts. Carmen and I have each designed an adoption themed t-shirt. We have to sell 50 shirts each in 21 days (YIKES!) or the orders will not actually be completed. We are asking for $20 per shirt or $40 for a hoodie. Help us reach our goal and wear a ballin’ new t-shirt in the process! To order a shirt, simply click on the shirt you like better:
We believe God is turning our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11). Come and dance with us!
Last week, our church allowed the student ministry to take over the Sunday morning worship service. We had a blast. The students did the announcements, the worship, and played a game with the congregation. One of our students gave a wonderful testimony of how the Lord has worked in her life over her first year of loving Jesus. And then I preached from Deuteronomy 6 on the Gospel-Centered Family. I thought I would share the message God gave me for this service. I hope it ministers to you in a big way. I pray that God uses this message to cause your family to become obsessed with the Gospel! Here you go…have a listen and let me hear your feedback!
A few weeks ago, Carmen and I went back to her oncologist for scans. Carmen had completed her chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Both had been brutal. Cancer sucks. Don’t let anyone lie to you and tell you that it is easy or that it is no big deal. It is a big deal. It is hard…for everyone involved. I have consistently been amazed at how well Carmen has battled over the last nine months. God has demonstrated his love and mercy toward us in so many ways and He has given Carmen the strength she needed to get through the worst trial she has ever had to experience.
Back to the scans.
We sat in the doctor’s office acutely aware of the nervous knot in the pits of our stomachs, praying constantly that God would meet us with good news regarding Carmen’s health.
And good news He delivered. The scans came back clean!
CARMEN’S CANCER IS IN REMISSION! PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GLORIOUS GRACE!
I remember sitting down with one of my pastor friends back in early August, while we awaited the news of Carmen’s diagnosis. Now, pastors learn how to say just the right things in just the right tones at just the right time. That’s why the words this pastor friend of mine said to me shocked me. He was not grasping for some nugget of theological truth or profound comfort. He was not tritely assuring me of God’s presence in the trial. He did not lean on tired pastoral clichés to help me through my struggle. Rather, with real frustration and anguish in his voice, he said, “Cancer is so STUPID!”
I’ll never forget that.
His point was nothing more than the reality that cancer is stupid. He hurt for me. He was frustrated on my behalf. He was aware of the reality that my wife and I were up against a giant in our life that does not often strike people in their mid-20’s. And this could have turned out to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience…or it could take Carmen’s life. Cancer is stupid. It’s not how things are meant to be.
And even now, we still face the reality that cancer is stupid.
Yes, Carmen’s scans have come back clean. Praise God!
Yes, the cancer is in remission. Praise God!
But the fight is not over.
Carmen will have to continue medical treatment for upwards of a decade to ensure her long-term health and, hopefully, to seal her ultimate victory over this vile disease. Many of us have known people who have suffered from a recurrence of cancer.
That’s why cancer is stupid.
But we are praying that God keeps cancer far from Carmen’s body for the indefinite future. We are praying that Carmen and I get to grow old together. We are praying that good years lie ahead of us and that we get to remember cancer as a not-too-pleasant memory and as a marker of God’s enormous mercy and grace in our life.
We are so thankful for all the prayers you and those you know have offered up to God on our behalf. We are forever indebted to you for them. We are so thankful for the thoughts and calls and gifts and meals the church (the body of Christ) has provided for us. We are so thankful for the (literally) hundreds of cards Carmen has received in the mail. We are so grateful to the church for their care for us throughout this struggle.
And even though we are forever indebted to you for all of this…we would like to presume upon your kindness once more.
Will you please continue to pray for us?
Will you add us to your daily prayer list for the rest of your life? Seriously. Now is not the time to quit praying for us.
Our fight is not over. The battle rages on. We celebrate Carmen’s remission. She is a breast cancer survivor! But we are facing a long road ahead. We are staring down the reality that cancer will probably always be in the back (and sometimes the front) of our minds. We are staring down the barrel of tough choices regarding medicines and long-term treatment. And we are staring at the road ahead knowing that God is in control and that He is good and that He does good.
Cancer is stupid.
It is stubborn.
It is out for blood.
It is no respecter of persons.
But it IS a respecter of God…for He has the ultimate authority over everything. Cancer listens when God speaks. And we are praying that He has spoken the final word, the death blow, to the cancer that sought to assault Carmen’s body.
So, please continue to pray for us.
Thank you so much.
As I prepare to sign off, please consider these words from James 1. We have found them to be true and applicable to real-life.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-12 ESV)
This has not been a joyful experience for the most part. I have probably cried more tears this year than I have in all my life up to this point. I have watched my wife, whom I love more than anyone on this earth, suffer and struggle and cry and hurt. I have stood by helplessly as I watched her battle disease. And I have been forced to admit that I control nothing and that I am absolutely dependent on God’s work in my life.
So, has it been a joy? No.
But I will count it as joy, because I have learned that God is good and does good. I have learned that He cares for His own, even when times are hard. I have learned what it REALLY means to trust in God, even when it is difficult. I have learned what it is to be angry with God and to see Him come through as good and just and kind and merciful. I have seen Him go before us and provide for ALL of our needs according to His riches in glory. And I believe I have seen Him heal my wife. Would you keep praying with me that Carmen is healed? Thank you.
Andrew and Carmen
P.S. In nine days, Carmen and I are headed to Alaska to share Jesus with a completely unreached people group. I am so proud of her commitment to the gospel and her willingness to go and share the good news of Jesus Christ with people in a remote land just one month after finishing her cancer treatments! Isn’t she amazing?! And isn’t God amazing?! That’s why we’re going to tell others about Him. Pray for us as we go, please.
I really want to give Facebook a rest for a while. I’ve felt this way for a while now. Really, the only thing keeping my Facebook account active is this website (Facebook is the primary way that I publicize these updates). I feel responsible to keep my friends and family (and even many people that I do not know) up to date on my wife’s battle with breast cancer. Why? Because there are so many that have been praying for us. If you are one of those people…if you are one of those who have been praying for us…THANK YOU! Seriously, it means the world to us. Your prayers have been, I believe, a matter of life and death.
I apologize for updating so infrequently. Most of the time when I think of writing an update, I feel there is little worth saying. One distinctive of the fight against cancer is its monotony. Don’t get me wrong. It is traumatic. It is difficult. But it is constant. It is consistently uncomfortable. Consistently inconsistent. Carmen feels differently each day. One day brings fatigue and the next soreness. The acute trauma of the diagnosis and surgery has long since passed and we are now in the daily grind phase of the trial.
The third greatest day of the year (behind Christmas and Easter, of course) is Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. It is coming soon! To craft an analogy using our national pastime, we are currently in the “dog days of summer” with treatment. See, the baseball season is long (162 games). Around the middle of the summer, it gets monotonous, with each team plugging away day after day, looking for more wins than losses, hoping to make it to the sweet relief of the playoffs, which comes with the probably even sweeter relief of autumn. Here we sit in the dog days, notching more little victories than losses, awaiting the final scans that will tell us if the cancer has tucked its tail and rescinded into remission or not. The playoffs, so to speak.
To stop torturing you with analogies from our world’s greatest sport (I apologize if that offends…it is an empirical fact that baseball is the best sport ever…take it up with God), I will now use plain English.
Carmen completed chemotherapy early on December 31, 2013. She finished early because she was experienced neuropathy, a constant annoyance featuring tingling and numbness in her extremities. The doctor thought it better to end the treatments early than to allow the neuropathy to progress. So, God was gracious to us in that regard. She recently began receiving radiation therapy here in the Outer Banks. To the praise of God’s glorious grace, we have been assigned another talented, Jesus-loving physician for this stage of the game. Carmen will have six weeks of intensive radiation therapy (five days per week) in total and is set to finish the first week of April. After that is over, Carmen will undergo the necessary scans which will tell us if she has been healed from cancer. We believe she already has been, but these scans will tell us for sure.
I came across a couple of verses this morning that describes how I have felt thus far in our journey through cancer. In this passage, David describes his attitude when facing trails in his life:
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.
– Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)
Now, I am not saying that I have not despaired at all. That is flatly untrue. I have spent my portion of time in despair during this process. We both have. But we have struggled to not allow despair to become a pattern in our lives…to not allow despair to consume our hearts. We have prayed for and believed God to show His goodness in the land of the living. Indeed, He has! He has been so good to us. He has given us hope even in our moments of despair. He has rallied His troops, the Church, to pray incessantly on our behalf. He has minimized side effects and suffering. He has brought joy in our marriage and He has shown us that we can trust in Him.
So, my friend…what are you facing? Is it difficult? Are you in the acute stages of a trial? Or are you just grinding out the dog days of a difficult situation? In either case, DO NOT DESPAIR! Believe that God will show His goodness in the land of the living! Allow your heart to trust and take courage in God. Wait for the LORD. He will respond.
Thank you so much for reading and for praying for us. In particular, please pray for continued favor as Carmen undergoes radiation therapy. And please, please pray that those scans come back clear in April!
After a few days of posting this update on my Facebook page, I am going to take some time off from FB. I will reactivate my account in April long enough to publicize the results of the tests. But I am planning to keep myself free from the snare that is our world’s largest social media platform in the coming months.
Here we sit in the chemotherapy bay at Physicians East in Greenville. Today is Carmen’s fourth treatment, which puts us more than halfway through this part of our journey. To this point, I believe that Carmen’s response to the chemotherapy has been, as the title suggests, as good as it gets. To the praise of His glorious grace, God has brought Carmen through three full cycles of chemo with very few complications. For the most part, she has felt relatively well. She has not been sick. She has only had one real negative reaction to the medications and the oncologist seems to have solved that problem quickly and easily. God has been so good to us and shown us such favor all the way through Carmen’s battle with breast cancer. She was hospitalized for one night during the first treatment as a result of fevers caused by low white blood cell counts, but that was resolved within a day and the fevers have been held at bay since the first cycle ended. Praise God! He has given wisdom and insight to our medical team, a spirit of mercy and generosity to our church, friends, and family, and He has shown enormous favor to us throughout this whole process. It seems that God has brought much glory to Himself through the exposure my website has gotten since this all started and through my relatively public ministry in the Outer Banks. We are so excited to have seen God work in such mighty ways on our behalf thus far.
I did have my doubts at first. I had my moments. I never doubted God’s goodness, but in the very beginning, if I’m being gut-level honest, I had my doubts that prayer really worked. Literally hundreds of people were praying for us during the biopsy phase of this journey, and we were quite sure that God would come through in the way we desired. And then the diagnosis came. And the news was not to our liking. I had many honest and painful conversations with God, with my Dad, and with my father-in-law. Ultimately, God showed me that I was praying according to my own will and not God’s will, and that I would have to trust that His plan was better than mine. I begged God to show up and show off. And boy did He.
To our knowledge, there is no cancer in Carmen’s body right now. We believe that she has been healed. The scans are clean. The blood work is perfect. And we are encouraged. Praise be to God! We are continuing the treatment with what our doctor calls “curative intent,” working toward eliminating the chance of reoccurrence. The words of Deuteronomy 31:8 ring through my mind often: “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” God has gone before us and He has shown His favor and love and mercy on us. We have no reason to fear or be dismayed.
Not only has God blessed Carmen physically, but He has blessed us emotionally and spiritually as well. Carmen has received literally hundreds of cards and encouraging notes and letters. We have received many gifts and several offerings from God’s people. (Carmen even received a bracelet from the governor of Mississippi’s wife, which was super cool). And most of all, I know that so many people have been praying for us since August. We have received cards from many churches (some of which we have never even heard of!), assuring us that we are being prayed for. Our church has surrounded us and lifted us up in prayer and support. God has shown amazing grace to us through His people. Thank you. Thank you for your prayers, cards, and gifts. We love you and we pray that God will see your gifts to my family as a “fragrant offering, a sacriﬁce acceptable and pleasing to God” and that He “will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” just as He has done for us thus far. “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever” (Philippians 4:18b-19). Good is good and does good.
Here is the timeline for the rest of Carmen’s treatment, so you will now how to continue to pray for us:
Today: chemo, round 4. Typically the week immediately following treatment are the most uncomfortable for Carmen, specifically days 4-7. She is often very tired, has trouble with her sleeping schedule, is very sore, and generally lethargic. Please pray that the treatment’s effectiveness will be maximized, and side effects minimized.
December 30: chemo, round 5.
January 20: last chemo treatment!
After the last treatment, Carmen will have some scans done. Then she will start radiation, which will be local, every day for six weeks.
We are hopeful and confident that we will be looking at breast cancer in the rear view mirror by Easter of 2014. Praise God.
I apologize for not updating sooner or more often. Things are crazy, you know. :). I plan to post some thoughts on Christmas and some more thoughts on how awesome Carmen is in the near future. Stay tuned.
Carmen and I have been absolutely overwhelmed at the exposure my last post received. The famous Christian philosopher, C. S. Lewis once remarked on suffering in this way: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This has certainly proven to be true in our lives and in the responses of my readers. God has indeed used the suffering He has placed in front of us to rouse our attention and our dependence upon Him. And it appears that God has used our trials to minister to thousands of readers as well.
Paul and Timothy describe the result of their suffering in 2 Corinthians 1:9 – “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Granted, the context of our circumstance and that of the apostles in the first century differ drastically, but this is exactly how we have felt since our first update. We felt that God had delivered to us a death sentence and we did despair. I, in particular, experienced bouts with doubt and even some anxiety attacks as I endeavored to navigate the feelings that accompany such dire circumstances. But God has proven Himself faithful. He has show me my absolute inadequacy and inability to help my wife, forcing me to lean on His power, His goodness, and His sovereign grace. I have begun to learn how to rely not on myself, but on the God who reigns over all creation. He is good and has been good to us.
In the past month, God has led Carmen through a successful double mastectomy on September 11th (yet another reason to never forget that fateful date). The doctors removed two large tumors from her right side as well as all of the lymph nodes on that side as well. God has brought about a swift and eventless recovery from the surgery. He has set us up with the most excellent doctors in the area. And…here’s the best news…get ready…He has used the surgery to remove all of the cancer from Carmen’s body! Her scans have come back clean!
Despite the clean scans, Carmen is still facing chemotherapy. In fact, we are sitting in the chemotherapy room for her first treatment as I type these very words. While we dread the reality of chemotherapy in the coming months, we know that God is working for our good and that He will provide the strength we need to make it through this trial. He has already proven Himself in mighty ways thus far and we, like Paul and Timothy, believe that: “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10). And we continue to ask for your prayers as we stare down chemo, just as Paul and Timothy asked for the prayers of the saints as they endured trials much worse than ours: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11).
It is our prayer and our hope that as God proves Himself in our trials that you see us struggle well. We ask you to watch us. We ask you to read our words. We ask that you stand with us and support us. And we promise that we will do our very best to make much of Jesus as we struggle. We pray that God will speak loudly and clearly through the megaphone of our pain so that deaf ears will be roused and dead hearts awakened to His marvelous goodness! Many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessings God has granted us.
Please forgive me for not posting recently. I did not feel I had anything worth saying until now. This morning as I sat in the oncologist’s waiting room, I read through 2 Corinthians. What a balm that was for my wounds. God came through in the clutch to deliver a warm blanket for my soul through His Word!
Are you hurting? Are you suffering? Are you going through a trial? Then I entreat you, open your Bible and read Second Corinthians right now. Paul and Timothy show us how to suffer well for the glory of God and in the hope provided by His Son Jesus. May you be ministered to as I have been through God’s living Word.
I plan to write again in the next few days. Stay tuned!