Growing up in a Christian military family has rooted a deep sense of honor and respect for both God and the men and women who protect this great nation. I have been a Christian for most of my life, asking Jesus into my heart when I was nine years old. As a child, I was very blessed to have the opportunity to attend a Christian school and to learn about my Lord and Savior at a very young age. The seeds that were planted during these years of my life were essential in my development as a follower of Christ. Looking back, I can see now that my life is a testament that the Lord’s Word does not return void and that it does not return to Him without succeeding in the matter for which it was sent.
During my high school years, I felt a sincere calling into the mission field and traveled to Kenya for my first trip with Youth for Christ. This was an amazing experience in my life, and it was after this trip that I truly began to believe that God had a plan for my life. Foreign missions still remain very close to my heart, and I travel as often as I can with my church to Europe and South and Central America. These trips give me an incredible opportunity to share God’s Word either in person or through my act of helping to build churches, housing, and orphanages for the local people. Every trip I take gives me a deeper appreciation of all the things I have and all the wonderful things the Lord has blessed me with.
My college years are not a time of my life that I am very proud of. I learned some lessons the hard way, and while I would not change anything in my past, I sometimes wish there had been another way for me to get to the point where I am now in my walk with Christ. It is sad that it took the realization that Jesus was all I had to realize He is all I needed. As each semester passed, my faith played a smaller and smaller role in my life until it was not even on my radar. I began to become very prideful, thinking that I could do anything and everything on my own. I should have remembered that pride comes before the fall. This path I chose began a dangerous downward spiral in my life, and when all that I had placed before God came crashing down around me, I became bitter. It took some time for me to stop blaming God and everyone, but I praise God that I can now face my future trials with the testimony of God’s faithfulness in my past. Once I realized that everything I had gone through was permitted and even intended by God, restoration began to take place in my life. I then had to make a decision if I was going to allow my situation to make me a bitter person or a better person. God did not allow me to experience the pain I felt without serving a higher purpose. When I began to get my priorities straight again, God began to orchestrate all the events and things in my life to work together for good because I, once again, loved my Lord and was being called according to His purpose.
Throughout my life seeds were continually being planted which have now began to bear fruit through my various roles in full-time ministry, but I believe God has even more in store for my family and me. While I knew at an early age that God was calling me to help reach and save those who were lost and hurting, I had no idea how He would be able to even use the mistakes of my past. In Daniel chapter 4, we read how King Nebuchadnezzar became prideful saying, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” As the words were still on his lips, he was stripped of everything he had and he lost all of his power and this was what happened to me. I had become so prideful in myself, thinking that my success was my own doing. Being cut down was extremely humbling, but even as a stump, like in Daniel 4, God encircled me with an iron and bronze ring to protect me as He restored me to a better state than I was previously in. This is where my metamorphosis began and this is where my care and compassion was birthed. In my brokenness, God gave me such a heart for people who were suffering. Not one tear I shed was wasted and not one moment of anguish failed to serve a higher purpose in His eternal plan.
I have continued to grow closer to the Lord and I now can look back on past experiences through a different lens and from a deeper and more humble perspective. I realize my Master had been preparing me for something so great that words cannot even begin to describe it, as each new day was just another step in God’s wonderful plan for my life. While certain events stand out more than others, receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was a very special day in my walk with Christ, and this personal revival began a new and important chapter in my life. Early in my calling, I had the pleasure of attending the “Walk to Emmaus,” which is a three-day pilgrimage meant to draw closer to the Lord. During this time, I heard from the Lord that He was calling me into full-time ministry and He told me, “I needed to take the first step in faith,” to which I replied, “Here I am, send me,” and I believe that is exactly what I am doing in becoming ordained, applying to receive an ecclesiastical endorsement, as well as my pursuit of an M.Div. God is not a God of mystery, and there is no doubt in my mind what He is calling me to do. From day one, I have never questioned that God is calling me into the field of chaplaincy and I have prayed about it and have sought godly counsel from my pastors—not to discern the voice of God, but to make sure everything I do lines up with God’s complete and perfect will for my life.
An article in Readers Digest says that roots of trees share nutrients with each other. If one tree gets water and sunlight, and another gets none, the tree with nutrients shares with ones that desperately need it. I believe this to be the biblical model Jesus spoke of when He prayed that we would be one, and love one another and show it by the way we care for each other. In this way, unbelievers would take notice and believe in Him. Life has a way of sucking the life out of us and without other healthy trees to aid; many trees would simply wither away. I thank God for the mighty trees in my life and I pray that I too will become a tree that other trees can count on to provide help in their seasons of need and drought.
I am very involved in my local church, and I have come to realize my calling is located where my passion, giftings, needs, and opportunities meet. Nothing feels more right than when I am able to share with others what God has done in and through my life and what God can do in theirs if they will just let Him in. The closer I draw to the Lord, the closer He draws to me and I now fully realize that my life is God’s gift to me, and what I do with it is my gift to Him. Jesus is calling me to follow Him and to feed His sheep and because of the Lord’s grace, the strength and passion I now have was refined and made perfect in and through my time of need.
Maintaining balance is very difficult, but it is what I continually strive for. As a pastor, I am continually pouring myself into the lives of others, and if I do not replenish myself with the true source: God, it is not a matter of if I will burnout; it is only a matter of when. For me, praise is my primary pathway to God, so this is how I start everyday and it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I also strive to keep God first in all things, followed by my spouse, then my children, and then my job. If any of these are elevated above God, it is a recipe for disaster and if God is truly first in someone’s life, it is only natural for everything else to line up. After my time of praise, which is anywhere from an hour to two, I then spend time in prayer and begin to journal things the Lord has laid on my heart and areas I think He is calling me to grow in or act upon. That still small voice is often waiting for us to simply slow down and wait upon the Lord, but the busyness of life tries to make us think this is impossible. Being a husband, father, pastor, and student make time a precious commodity. I have seen much sacrificed on the altar of ministry and the last thing I want to become is just another statistic of burnout or moral failure.
Seeing people’s lives changed is what energizes me and coming alongside them to offer godly and practical counsel and support is my true passion. I have endured much in life and nothing brings me more joy than helping someone walk through or avoid something I too struggled with or had dealings with. Equipping and empowering others are my greatest giftings and these work well together with my grace and compassion for others. After worship, my second pathway to God is reading and studying the Word and I have come to thoroughly enjoy my M.Div. studies as they have broadened my ability to provide practical application to many of the timeless truths found in the Bible.
Balancing the needs of others to whom I minister to, while also tending to my own needs has a lot to do with making sure God is always the first priority in my life. It also makes me think of the safety briefing before you take off on a plane. You are instructed to put your oxygen mask on first before aiding the other person or child in putting theirs on. If we as pastors do not tend to our needs first, we are going to be of no use to those we are ministering to. Because the primary function of my position is dealing with the needs of the church, I have learned to develop healthy boundaries. Without healthy boundaries, people are able to have access to you at all times. As pastors, we are always on the clock, which makes it very difficult to just shut our brain off when we leave the office. Being a pastor has provided me the opportunity to help so many people find and develop their giftings as well as helping them walk through trying seasons and I truly look forward to what God has planned for me and my family in ministry.