“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Sometime around 1996, our minister of education installed a desktop computer in my office. “You’ll be needing this,” he said.
He was more right than either of us could have ever imagined.
Then, sometime around the year 2002, my son Marty, knowledgeable about computers in ways and depths that elude and astonish me, emailed me. “I have reserved www.joemckeever.com for you.” He added, “You’re going to be needing it in the future.”
I scarcely knew what a domain was. But I thanked him.
The website sat there unused for 2 years.
Then, in 2004, I left that church which I had pastored for 14 years to become Director of Missions for the SBC churches of metro New Orleans. Since the website for the association was being revamped and non-functioning, I began writing on www.joemckeever.com. The guy doing our computer work had a full-time church and more computer business than he could get to. He kept us at the bottom of his list. So, the association had no website other than mine.
So, in the fall of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina blew through the southern U.S. and destroyed the Mississippi Coastline and flooded New Orleans, obliterating many of our neighborhoods and churches, I wrote about this on my blog. For nearly two years, this blog became a journal of what God was doing in New Orleans. (To see this, go to www.joemckeever.com and scroll down to “archives,” then to September 2005, and from there to September 1. Pull up a chair.)
I have lived in this website ever since.
I’m grateful to a faithful son who has looked out for his dad in so many ways, and does to this day. Thank you, Marty.
It occurs to me that the Holy Spirit does this very thing: He equips us with something we are going to be needing down the way. We may have no clue what He is up to, why He is sending this resource our way, or why He is insisting that we learn this skill.
He’s looking out for us.
He gives gifts to us because we will be needing them down the way.
Each of us will have our own stories. This is mine.
One. A gift. When I was 8, the Lord impressed my coal-miner father to suggest that I walk down the railroad track with him to the next town, where we entered a variety store and he asked the clerk where she kept the Bibles. “Pick you out one,” he said.
I cannot explain why, of his four sons, Dad chose to do this for me. But I think I knew why the Lord had him to do it. God knew I would be needing this Bible for the rest of my life.
Two. A talent. When I was a child, my family encouraged my drawing and cartooning. At 16, I took a correspondence course in drawing, paid for by my sister Patricia. Then, 5 years later, when God called me to preach, I wondered what possible role cartooning could play in the ministry. For a time, it seemed a silly diversion, child’s play. And then, the editor of a Baptist paper asked me to draw something for a story he was writing. One thing led to another. And here we are. I’ve done cartoons for religious publications for 45 years, and have published many books of cartoons. I’ve illustrated books for my preacher friends. One series of books was used with the cell group movement in Asia, and the books number in the millions.
But no one knew when I was a kid doodling that this was what the Lord had in mind.
Three. A calling. He sent me to the Baptist church where He wanted me. I was in college, majoring in history, thinking I’d go on and become a history professor in college somewhere. But at that church, I was baptized, met my wife-to-be, and was thrown into the most loving, nurturing group of people I’d ever met. In time, God called me into the ministry and directed me to seminary. The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has been an integral part of my life since I arrived on campus in June 1964 with my wife and our one-year-old.
Four. An interest. I’m remembering something the Dean said to me in college. I was a senior at Birmingham-Southern, majoring in history but headed to seminary, and needed one more lab course for my degree. Dean Abernethy, never someone I knew very well–and was surprised to find he even knew my name–said, “Joe, I want you to take geology.” When I protested that I was going to be a Baptist preacher and would not need that, he insisted. “I want you to take geology. You might be surprised at how much you learn and come to appreciate this.” And he was right.
I came to a wonderful appreciation of the earth God has given us. Inside the front door of my home is a beautiful cabinet (not unlike a china cabinet) containing my rock collection: arrowheads found while plowing the Alabama farm, fossils my coal-miner dad brought out of the ground when I was a child, rocks I picked up in the Holy Land and brought home. And two tomahawks my brother Glenn and I found the same day in 1955. And perhaps a hundred other gems and jewels from the Father’s creative hand.
Five. A friend. Okay, many friends. God loves to send friends into our lives. Later one of those friends provides just what we need–counsel, a referral, a healing touch, an endowment–that makes a world of difference. In my case, it was a roommate in college named Joel Davis, a neighboring pastor named James Richardson, and colleagues in the ministry such as Bobby Hood, Don Davidson, and David Crosby. The list is practically endless.
Six. Schools. God sends us to this school and not that one. To this elementary school, but not to that one. Had I lived 100 yards south on the farm, my high school would have been the one in Carbon Hill, AL, but because we lived in Winston County and not Walker, my 6 years of junior and senior high were spent at WCHS in Double Springs. It changes everything.
You meet people there who become part of your life forever, teachers who make you other than what you were, and ideas that forever bless you. For the rest of our lives, we are different and stronger and blessed by the teachers and classmates and opportunities.
And on and on it goes.
Jesus said, “I have many more things to say to you now, but you cannot bear them. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak….” (John 16:12ff.).
He knows the plans He has for us. (Jeremiah 29:11).
He is up to big things in each of us. “That we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).
Trust Him. He knows what He is about.