An update on what happens next for our family is expected real soon. Meanwhile, I have had a little extra time lately to do some thinking. This can be dangerous, I know. I realize many (very old and very new friends) who have read this blog might be wondering, “How’d we get here?” Here’s the short version…
Nearly 14 years ago this month (Apr. 1995), I was a seasoned freshman in college. The most important thing in my life then was baseball. I had just met a pretty girl who attended a nearby college and she was out of my league! One night at the college I attended in WPB, we were sitting on the tailgate of Ole Blue (my first p/u truck), and she told me about her faith in Christ. At that moment, my thoughts went from, “How lucky am I right now?” to “This is just my luck! This pretty girl is one of those weird religious types!”
I was raised Catholic, and throughout my teenage years God to me was just plain irrelevant to life. The only times as a teenager I attended the parish I grew up in was to see a girl I liked. I had two good friends in high school who would try to convince me of the existence of God, but usually it was while we were out together late at night doing things we were not supposed to do. Needless to say, since their behavior was no different than mine, my so-called “Christian” friends’ behavior supported my claim that God was irrelevant.
Mary was different. As we grew as friends, I learned more about her faith. Each time I would spend time with her family, I learned more about the Gospel. Many times I just put up with it, but I could not ignore it. I would never have admitted then, but it was affecting me. The message of Christ began to make sense. It was visible that Mary and her family’s lives were authentically affected by the Gospel. The more I was influenced by the Gospel, the more relevant God became to me.
One night in the Fall of 1996, while attending Indian River Community College, I began believing the Gospel. It was then that I turned from my sinful life (and I mean sinful!) and placed my faith in Christ. Even today I recognize what a miracle it was for my stubborn heart to be changed that evening. Jesus said, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). I now knew what it meant to be born again.
Since that day, I have had a passion for God, I never knew existed. Many old desires started to fade away, and I began experiencing new desires. My life began to change, and not of my own doing. As I began studying the Bible, God began to change me from the inside out.
In 1998, I married Mary Keith. I am forever grateful she faithfully spoke of and lived faithful to the Gospel. She was an instrument of God’s Grace. In 1999, as I began to follow this new passion for Christ, it led me to a church in western Palm Beach county. There I served as a minister of youth, which meant I hung out with and taught the Bible to teenagers. I did not know the Bible well, so I taught what I was learning. During this time, I finished a Bachelors degree in Computer Information Systems at Palm Beach Atlantic.
In 2001, Mary and I moved with our 9-month-old daughter Cassidy to NC where I could attend Seminary. This was another new passion God had given me. Before this, I literally hated school. I was nearly illiterate! Yet, by God’s grace, I earned a Master of Divinity degree at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. While in NC, I served as the Pastor of Youth at a church in Zebulon, NC.
In 2003, Mary and I moved to Okeechobee, FL (with Cassidy and one on the way) with the intention of starting a new church. Over the next four years, and with the help of many other people and churches, we began a church called Everglades Baptist Church. After nearly four years as the pastor of Everglades, God began stirring my heart with a new passion. I had been invited to assist a very large church in Southwest Florida in evangelism.
During my time at Everglades, I had grown in my understanding of how God uses the Law in the Bible to make sense of the Gospel to unbelievers. When I was an unbeliever, I remember how irrational it was to me when someone told me that God loved me or that Jesus saves. My first reaction was, “Who cares! What relevance does that have?” Then I would think, “Besides, if there was a heaven, I would go there because I am a good person!” Yet that is exactly what the Law does, it shows us why there is no such thing as a good person in by God’s standard. God’s standard is the moral Law, the Ten Commandments.
The Bible says, “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). This means, no one can keep the Ten Commandments and, therefore, be innocent in God’s sight. Everyone has broken the Ten Commandments, and by evaluating yourself by this standard, you can see that you are a sinner.
Therefore, if the Bible is true, every individual in life will die and be judged by God with the Ten Commandments as the standard for who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Because we all will be found guilty, in God’s eyes, we rightfully deserve the punishment, hell. Obviously many will refuse to except this understand of God, but if they are reasonable, and use the Bible as their only source for God, they will realize this is true. This is why the Gospel of Christ is relevent. This is why the Apostle Paul can write, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus took the punishment for those who repent and believe in Him. When a person places thier faith in Christ, they will be spared their punishment! Christ saves.
In 2007, after Everglades prayerfully selected a new pastor to lead the church, Mary and I with our three children (Cassidy, Caris, and Caleb), moved to Fort Myers, FL. I began serving as pastor of evangelism at a large church, teaching members how to live life more like a missionary. I taught members of the church how to explain the Gospel to others.
Also in 2007, I began studying again at Southeastern for a Doctor of Ministry in Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth. Through my studies, a passion for starting new churches began burning inside of me again. Almost simultaneously, an opportunity to start a new church arose as circumstances unexpectedly changed for me at the church I was serving.
And so, here we stand. We have prepared ourselves for this new chapter in life to begin. Life as a follower of Christ can be like the Book of Acts in the New Testament. Jesus said of the Apostle Paul when he was converted, “He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Every person who is born-again is a “chosen instrument” of Christ, to bring the Gospel to people He puts in their path so that He might save some from the eternal consequence of Sin. We bear the name “Christ-ian” for a mission with eternal consequences. There is no Christian who is not also called to be a missionary. We are instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand, and that’s how we got here!