Sunday, August 27, 2017

Life, Vocation, & Faith

Life is amazing on so many levels. Many of the experiences that have happened in my life I never saw coming. I am a planner and I like things to go as planned. Sometimes this frustrates me. But when I take time to look back on it, God has been faithful to me every step of the way. The next few paragraphs is an abbreviated story of our past year and God's faithfulness throughout.

Last March after much reflection and soul searching I felt God leading me to ministry. Melissa and I had planned a trip to Nashville for an extended weekend vacation. I knew that it was real, but I wasn’t quite sure how she would respond. Our plane landed and our first stop was for lunch. Before we even had ordered lunch Melissa asked me, “Are you going to be a preacher?” I was surprised that she asked me. I was planning on bringing it up later on. We discussed what things would look like for our family and she told me I had her full support.

I started seminary last summer in pursuit of my MDiv (Master of Divinity Degree). I was teaching full-time, taking seminary classes, writing papers- life was busy. Our son Lincoln was having trouble swallowing foods that he should have been eating at his age. He was diagnosed with a conditioned known as EOE (Eosinophilic esophagitis). We began taking him to therapy a couple of times a week. Melissa was moving things around in her schedule to get him to all his appointments. Our therapist recommended that we take Lincoln to Our Children’s House in Dallas and admit him into their inpatient swallowing program. I was against it at first, I had to job to do and I really thought it was something that Lincoln would grow out of. However, as the school year continued it became apparent he needed the therapy. We decided we would start the inpatient therapy over the Thanksgiving Break so I wouldn’t be away from the classroom more than three weeks. This also meant we would spend Christmas in the hospital. It was tough, but praise God Lincoln got the therapy he needed and his chewing and swallowing improved tremendously!

After Christmas, it was back to work. The flu was rampant and I was the first to get it. After I contracted the flu, Melissa got it and so did the kids. The kids passed around every imaginable virus possible. I missed most of January and a big chunk of February at work because the kids were constantly sick. Melissa began having panic attacks and anxiety, probably due to the stress we had with Lincoln’s swallowing issues and the kids being sick. Again it was difficult, but she was a trooper through it all. During this time Melissa wrote a song about God that helped her with her anxiety. She would sing it over and over. The song sticks and frequently it plays in my mind.

Lincoln’s chewing and swallowing have improved greatly, but he still needs therapy. Our goal has been for him to be caught up by the end of this year (2017) Lord willing. But that requires him to be in therapy three days a week. Melissa’s work schedule was already crazy; there was no way she could work those appointments into her work week. Teaching is a great job but the hours aren’t flexible. So we decided that I would not teach this school year and focus on Lincoln and seminary to prepare me for ministry.

I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing I do know- I have an awesome wife! She has sacrificed much for our family. She has supported me in my pursuit of a vocation in ministry. She has supported me in my efforts in seminary. She supported me as I was away for a week at church camp. She agreed to let me leave again for a week for a mission trip to Colorado.I also know that God is my Rock, and He has blessed me with a partner that is perfect for me!

During my trip to Colorado, I felt clarity from God that I am to work in youth ministry at least during this season in my life. There are many unknowns to what that brings, however I know God is in control of all things and works them out for His glory. I look back on the past year and I can see many ups and downs. But that is what life is in much of the time- a series of tests that require us to ask the questions, "Do I trust God?" "Do I have faith that He will keep His promises?"

Philippians 4:19 (ESV)- “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

I’ll end by a quoting Chuck Swindoll from a sermon I have listened to several times over the past couple of weeks. It keeps replaying in my head and comforts me when I start worrying about the future.

“His (God's) answers will not always be yes, but I will find delight in His answers even if they're no because I've turned it over to Him and by faith I will leave it with Him. And He who knows me the best will never do anything wrong. He will only do what is right, which is not necessarily my bucket list, my wish list. God is going to do what He says He will do and that is to bring honor to Himself and bring peace to my heart in the process."- Chuck Swindoll

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who I am Hates Who I've Been

“I’m sorry for the person I became.
I’m sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I’m ready to be sure that I never become that way again
‘cause who I am hates who I’ve been.
Who I am hates who I’ve been.”
Who I am Hates Who I’ve Been- Relient K

Do you wish you could ever change the past? If you could build a time machine and go back in your past and change just one event, do you know what it would be? I do. I actually have given much thought to the things I would change. I would take back decisions that I’ve made that have hurt people I love. I would spend more time with people I loved that were taken from me before I was ready. I would take back poor choices that I made for the sake of “having a good time.” I would never say words that hurt the ones I care the most about. My list could go on and on.

I have wallowed in my guilt wishing things I could go back. But the fact is I can’t. Each second passes by and it is out of my grasp- I can’t reach back and touch it. This finally brought me to the question, “Now what?” I can’t change the past, so what can I do? I think the Apostle Paul gives great insight on what to do with the things of our past in Philippians 3:13 (ESV)- “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” (emphasis mine).

           I might not be able to change the mistakes of my past, but I can do something about my future. Paul continues by sharing what his goal is in verse 14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The first thing that we must do is admit that we are sinners. Many want to try to fix their problems on their own. They think that their righteous acts will make them acceptable to God. That feeling is our pride taking root. John Stott in his book The Cross of Christ says, “We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that this somebody else should be God himself is too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.”[i] We must repent of our past and move forward to the prize of Christ Jesus. Every morning we wake up we have the opportunity to share God’s love with someone. We should boldly proclaim what Jesus Christ did for us to bring us back into a right relationship with God the Father. If you have questions about Jesus, feel free to send me a message. I would love to share why the mistakes of my past are no longer a stumbling block for my future! I can forget what is behind me and look to what lies ahead!

[i] Stott, John. The Cross of Christ. Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press. (1986), 162.

Friday, February 17, 2017

My Testimony- Part 2

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT): "The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit."

First, I want to say that I do not intend to upset anyone who reads my story who went through some of these experiences I describe. I tell the story only in hopes to build up others who are going through similar experiences. I love my hometown church and love my home school/ public school friends. These are the experiences as I recall them from my memories. Here we go:

I was home schooled from the 4th-8th grade.  I must admit I felt like I didn't fit in with other kids around my age. Our church friends went to public school and I felt that they looked at me as weird. Most of our home schooled friends had never attended public school, so I again felt out of place.
But at least I had my twin brother B.J. to keep me company. When we weren't chasing each other for popcorn (see part 1) we spent a lot of time exploring. Climbing trees, riding bikes, driving our go-cart, spending time in our tree house was how we spent a lot of our time together. 
I think my favorite subject was Bible. Mom got me a book about Jim Elliott. I would dream of myself being a missionary to a tribe that had never heard the Gospel. I could picture Nate Saint flying in medical supplies and food to our base. I thought that would be so cool.
We were about to become freshmen in high school and we talked dad into letting us go back to public school. I really wanted to play basketball- my favorite sport.
Our church had recently hired a new pastor and our church was growing.  Youth started coming, it was no longer just me and my 3 brothers- there were other kids! It was really amazing to see our small church grow from just a few families to over 100 in attendance on a Sunday. 
During this time I went to a youth camp. It was a pretty emotional experience. I think I was 15. I was convinced that I couldn't have understood what it meant to be a Christian at the age of 9 and decided to make a profession of faith. Looking back I truly believe I was saved at 9 (see part 1). Regardless, I was energized coming back.
I grew close to my youth director, a man I still look up to today. A boy needs a good male role model in his life, and I had two- my father first and my youth director second.
High school was flying by. By the time I was a Junior, the church was going through some tough times. For reasons I don't entirely know, the church was split. Some had followed the pastor, some were on the other side. The pastor left. I remember being torn. I was upset that things had gotten to that point and couldn't believe that this had happened when just a couple of years before so much good was happening. 
My parents started visiting other churches. This was a strange experience, similar to trying to fit again like I did those years of home schooling. We had gone to the same church for what felt like forever.
When I went off to college I attended church casually. I went here and there most Sundays, but didn't want to get to involved. I didn't want to be disappointed again.
I put all my efforts into my college education. That was what was going to make me successful, or so I thought. I did try to go back and work with the youth for a short time, but it got too much for me to handle with all my schooling, so decided I needed to put my focus elsewhere. 
One person I who I will say made a huge impact in my life- and he may not even know it is Doug Chumley. Doug is about 3 years older than me and use to come around my house to jam (play loud music late at night until the morning hours) with my younger brothers. They started a Christian Rock Band- in the room directly across from mine. I would be studying for a test and they would be rocking out, I would get so frustrated! 
But one thing about Doug- he was a godly man. Doug knew to do what was right in the Lord's eyes- and did it. You don't see that type of character in a young man in his early 20s. I wish I would've modeled him more then. It would've kept me from a lot a hurt I caused myself. I know Doug wasn't perfect but he loved(s) God with all His heart. I'm glad he was around my brothers during that time.
Through my experience I learned there is no such thing as a perfect church. As long as humans (sinners) are involved there are going to be problems. But don't let that keep you from being a part of the King's work! You are missing out on so much joy in your life!
I had the privilege of helping out at a youth camp this past year. Being able to watch the Spirit move in those young people's hearts was an amazing joy! It was an experience in my life like no other, and I got to be apart of it! God has been so good to me, even in spite of me.
Don't miss the blessings of that come with assembly of believers!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Testimony-Part 1

I was 9 years old when I accepted Christ as my savior. I was at a Vacation Bible School at First Baptist Douglass. The pastor asked if any of us wanted to give our life to Jesus and I went forward. I remember being baptized, being happy, and seeing my family that day. I was young and sometimes I have questioned if I truly understood what it meant to be a Christian.
One day when I was 11 years old my mom had a migraine and went into her bedroom to lie down. My brothers and I were watching Power Rangers and my twin brother was eating some popcorn that he had just popped. Instead of popping some myself, I decided he should give me some. He didn't care too much for that, so I started chasing him around the house. I was pretty sure I could catch him, but he was in rare form this day. The only way I was going to catch him was for me to hurdle the couch and cut him off. So I made the leap, was about to clear it, when my foot caught the top of the couch and landed on my stomach on our concrete kitchen floor. It knocked the wind out of me. I gave up on the pursuit of the popcorn.
I started having a lot of pain. My parents took me to the hospital and after a long process we finally learned I had ruptured my spleen and I was to have it removed. From what I remember I was told I had a 50/50 chance of making it. It was a lot for an 11 year old boy to process. While they were prepping me for surgery, dad read me a book about Christian athletes. I remember him asking me if I was sure I was a Christian. I was a little hurt for him asking me. Of course I was a Christian! Of this I had complete confidence. Remembering this part of my life gives me encouragement and reassurance of God's love to me. I wish I could say everything has been rosy from that point on, but it hasn't been the case.
I have made poor decisions I'm of which I'm not proud. I have taken tests in life of which I have failed miserably. There have been times when I was sure God had given up on me because I had given up on myself. I plan on sharing those stories at a later date.
But one thing I can say is that God has seen me through them all. My goal in this life is to bring Him glory through my life. He is worthy of the best I can give Him. Steve Prefontaine once said," To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." Although Pre might not have intended it this way, I think this is a great motto which by to live a Christian life.

Below are the lyrics to Rich Mullins song Creed. These words pretty much sums up what I believe.

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man

I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God's mighty right hand
I believe that He's returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men


I believe it, I believe it
I believe it
I believe it, I believe it

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,
Our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends


I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe it

I would love to hear your story of how you came to Christ or how God has seen you through tough times to see the good. And of course if you want to know more about Jesus I'd love to talk to you about Him!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stories Of The Saints Of Old

"Well, I was twelve years old in the meeting house
Listening to the old men pray
Well, I was tryin' hard to figure out
What it was that they was tryin' to say

...And did they tell you stories 'bout the saints of old
Stories about their faith
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold
Stories like that make a man walk straight..."-Boy Like Me/Man Like You (Rich Mullins)

I was fortunate enough to meet many saints during my early childhood that I have come to admire more as the years have gone along. Men and women, who by no means were perfect, but they loved God and taught me many valuable life lessons.
Many Saturday mornings I would go up to the church house with my father and my brothers for a day of breakfast, prayer and work. The smell of fresh coffee (which I wasn't old enough to drink), eggs and bacon cooking in the Kitty King Room still explode in my senses. After eating my breakfast the men would split up and go pray in different Sunday School rooms. Although I can't fully remember the complete context of their prayers, I know they consisted of praying to Our Heavenly Father for the church, community, state, and country. I know they frequently prayed for the missionaries that our church supported as well. I would sit there and listen to what these saints were praying, just like a fly on the wall learning what it meant to be a man of God.
Richard Porter was the name of one of those saints I met.  Brother Porter was one of the stoutest men I have ever met. My father taught me how to shake a man's hand, but brother Porter taught me how to shake a man's hand with a firm grip. I remember his squeeze being so hard that I thought my hand might pop right off my arm. The man did push-ups into his eighties, his mind as sharp as someone in their twenties. 
I can't recall a Sunday going to church that I didn't see Brother Porter or his wife Bonnie. Or a Wednesday evening for that matter. That could be because we were usually running 10-15 minutes late (it takes a while to get four boys ready in their Sunday bests) and they were usually the first people we saw when we walked through the door. Brother Porter was also a HUGE supporter at our school. You see, I grew up in a small town named Douglass. Douglass is in between Nacogdoches and Alto, there is a flashing yellow light in town to let you know you are about to pass through that glorious city. The school house there was a small 1A, I graduated with 17 fellow students. With that being said, Richard Porter was at every basketball game and every baseball game. He supported the kids that came through the school. When I finally got my chance to play, I would always look up in the stands. First, I would look for my mom and dad. The next person I looked for was Richard Porter. The man beamed in happiness watching us boys play ball. Often times we'd talk after church Sunday evenings about the upcoming game. He was a great encouragement to me. I by no means was a great player, but he would tell me how good I was. After I graduated from high school, he would still tell me that he missed seeing me on the basketball court. The truth is I missed being on that court and looking up in the stands and seeing a man who thought so highly of me. I miss it right now.
After college, I moved to McKinney but still came home frequently. I would stop by the church house there at First Baptist Douglass and worship with them. Brother Porter would take me to the side and ask me how I was doing, asking me about my work and life. He told me he always enjoyed talking with me and invited me to stop by and talk with him anytime.
I don't know how many years Brother Richard Porter has been in his Heavenly home now, but I think about him frequently. When I drive by the church I can still see his Ford F-150 sitting in the spot he parked in every Sunday and Wednesday evening. When I walk into the church, I can remember where he hung his cowboy hat, I can still see his contagious smile, still feel that firm handshake.
When I think about Brother Porter, I am reminded of this verse we find in Hebrews Chapter 12:1-2 

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

I know that Brother Porter ran with endurance the race that was set before him and looked to Jesus through it all. When I think about being "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" I picture myself back on that old gymnasium floor (now the race of life), looking up into the stands and there he is, Brother Porter, in the stands, cheering me on. Thank you Brother Richard Porter, for taking your time to show me what is means to be a man of God. I look forward to our meeting again, I expect a smile and a handshake... Not too firm!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Ladder to the Father

"Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 28:10-14 NKJV).

 Last night I was traveling back from College Station listening to a message from Martin Lloyd-Jones. The sermon he preaches brought out several different points, but the ones below are the ones that really spoke to me! In his message, he discusses Jesus talking with Nathanael:

"Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:45-51 NKJV)

 Llyod-Jones brings out that Jesus when Jesus says that angels will go up and down the Son of Man, He is referring to Himself being the ladder from heaven to earth. Jesus bridges the gap that separates us from God. Philip recognizes that Jesus is the Son of God because Jesus told him that He saw him under the fig tree. Notice what Jesus says next. Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man. So Jesus acknowledged Nathanael's statement that He is the Son of God, but also says He is the Son of Man. He is the One who came to "crush the serpents' head" (Genesis 3:15). He is the God/Man who will deliver Satan his final blow. Jesus is telling Nathanael that He is the Messiah! Through Him all of the families of the earth are blessed! Jesus is our Ladder to the Father!

Monday, August 29, 2016

For Such A Time As This

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” -Esther 4:14 (NASB) Esther found herself in a difficult situation. She had become a queen, but a man in the kingdom named Haman wanted to annihilate her people,the Jews. Esther had a choice to make. She could do nothing. She probably felt protected as the king's bride. However, her uncle warned her otherwise. She could approach the king and plead with him not to do such an evil thing. However, going before the king without him requesting her could have cost Esther her life. She chose to take the risk. Her uncle made the statement above, that perhaps God placed her in the position she was in for such a time. Her choice helped save her people. Have you ever wondered why you are in your current situation? Has life not gone quite the way you planned? Be patient and try to see if God is trying to tell you something. Perhaps you're where you're at for a reason. In a world that seems to get more confusing by the minute, we need to stay strong in our faith. We trust in the One who controls all things. Perhaps He has put you in your current position FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS!