My Gospel Story

{I am being asked a lot lately to share my story and passion for Gospel Fluency… This might help…}

  1. Creation: Who or what most shaped my understanding of myself? What were the sources of my sense of personal value and identity?

I grew up in a dysfunctional family like many people, my mom was married 3x and in 1985 I was placed in a half-way house and for Christmas 1985 I was placed into long-term foster care. My two-year younger sister got to stay with Mom (that is another of His stories). Because of this rejection, I constantly struggled with becoming an over-achiever, angry and keeping people at an emotional distance. This manifested in obviously, many drama moments. I ran away from my foster home to California to ‘find myself’, selling drugs, getting stabbed. Later not completing high school, getting my GED and attending college, involved in a murder investigation, doing marital arts, making a mess of my life and the lives of those around me, until I was finally given a choice, join the military or go to jail.

  1. Fall: How was my relationship with God and others NOT the way God created it to be? Why?

When I joined the military, I still searched and was never satisfied. Always searching for ‘something’, I looked into many religions and faiths and even changed my dog-tags a few times with everything from new age to the occult. I was married for 11 months and went through a divorce for 4 years with a daughter Samantha (who is estranged to this day due to these evidence of the Fall). I further downward spiraled into drinking and partying that finally caught up with me in a car accident, totaled a brand new car and put me in the hospital, disabling me from any physical prowess I once had and goals that I was working on with martial arts and the military. As I continued to blame everyone else for my chaos, I found myself tearful many times when Chaplains would come around and would find myself with a Bible in hands, not knowing what to read or do with it. I was involved in homosexuality and continued to be a danger to myself and those around me. I battled with depression, insomnia, anxiety and other rationalizations and justifications for my circumstances – when I really did not have a clue.

  1. Redemption: How did I come to put my trust in Him to save me and restore me to the way God intended it to be? How has my life been rescued by Jesus’ sacrifice?

As I neared my end of military contract and divorce, I was writing, drowning my sorrows in gothic music, and partying. I knew I did not want to go back to MA which was filled with pain and hurt but also there was nothing for me in NC, so I worked on a plan to move to SC with this woman I met online who was a single mom. As I continued in my drama, I had lost hope and would regularly try to drink or drug away my depression and suicidal tendencies. One day at the climax of my self-absorption and victim mentality, I had planned to take myself to a quiet place and finally stop the hurting and loneliness. As I pulled off the side of the road, I threw up a final accusation of all my hurts, pains, and all crap. I was tired, lonely, desperate and without hope. I was resolved to end the ‘problem’ I had become to so many, doubting God in my heart. It was at that moment through tears and sobbing that I distinctly remember sensing the presence of God, and I felt these words wash over me, “Nothing you can ever do would ever make me love you any less. I forgive you and I have always forgiven you.” I was radically changed at that moment, no one had ever told me of loving me anyway, always with conditions and agendas, and to be loved and forgiven was a new chapter in my life. I became aware of the righteous and holy nature of God through being confronted with my helplessness, depravity, and emptiness of looking for satisfaction from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. I realized that none of these things would ever satisfy and while I exercised early faith, I realized that the only approval or right standing that would ever satisfy, would be God, the Father and being loved by Him. I asked 3 serious questions (and still do and need to be reminded of):

What Did Jesus Do?

• On the cross, He exchanged His perfect obedience (His righteousness) for my sin so those who have faith in Jesus get His righteousness credited to their account and their sin credited to His account.

• When He died on the cross, not only were my sins removed, but they were paid for (atoned for).

• He rose from the dead to show His power over sin and death. (The wages of sin is death, so Jesus’ resurrection shows the debt is paid in full.)

• He ascended to the right hand of God the Father from where He sent His Spirit to bring faith and new life to us, empowering me to live a life of obedience.

What Must I Do?

• Repent: Have a change of mind about who is God around here.

• Believe: By faith put my trust in who Jesus is and what He has done, believing it was accomplished for me.

• Be Baptized: Publicly express my faith that my life is now united and identified with God in Christ.

What Happens to Me?

• I was forgiven and cleansed of my sins.

• I have received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

• I am included in the forever-family of God.

• I am commissioned to make disciples of Jesus.

My zeal for truth also exploded at that time, and I grew in hunger for the Bible and understanding it, which would later turn into Him making a way for seminary and many other turning points along the way that continue to sand the rough edges off of my life that are obstacles for others seeing Him.

  1. Restoration: What has changed and what is changing in my life now? Who and what is the focus of my life today?

Since that time, I have been married for 22-years to Connie, who has been an evidence of God’s grace and kindness in my life. My life is filled with deep and meaningful relationships and I know that I am united with Christ because of His death, burial, and resurrection, and I catch brief glimpses from time to time, of this reality as a heartfelt contentment and confidence. It creates a longing in me to be with Him and worship Him forever. I realize that He is not finished with me and sometimes those times are trials, tribulations, and temptations. I have hope as I am reminded of the story of Christ Jesus, and what He accomplished for me on the Cross. I just know. Sometimes I don’t understand what it means to live a life of the Joy of Fearing God. I am thankful for restoration, the story of redemption and I am reconciled to Him, which reminds me of His Righteousness and Holiness. I continually come to a point of conviction over my sin and rebellion when I truly comprehend God’s holiness in light of my sinfulness and the Cross is big in my life. It varies based on those areas of which God is currently working. I am thankful for those who help me to turn from my sin and selfishness and embrace Jesus in repentance, faith, and new obedience daily. Currently, God is working on my impatience, fear of man, dying to myself daily and gospel fluency. He is showing that He is great – so I don’t have to be in control; that He is glorious – so I don’t have to fear others; that He is good – so I don’t have to look elsewhere; and that He is gracious – so I don’t have to prove myself. These are items that bring about frustration, brokenness, repentance, redemption, and reconciliation with the Father and those gifts of people He has brought into my life. I enjoy talking about my faith, sharing my faith, showing my faith and breaking down the compartments of my life. Because He knows me already, I like to be known for ‘what you see is what you get’, especially if by using my life and experiences someone else can see Him, the author and perfector of my faith. By the way, in case you were wondering…I still don’t have a clue… One of the ways, I am gratefully humbled and reminded of the power and purpose of the gospel is by regularly asking and being asked by others: How does the Gospel Address This? and, What about the Gospel am I Not Believing? What idol or god am I putting my trust in? Which is also an evidence of God’s grace with those in my life see where I fall short in these areas and still love me anyway.

Concluding; three of my favorite scriptures that outline this continuing story of God’s work of Creation-Fall-Redemption and Restoration of my life;

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psa 34:18 ESV)

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20 ESV)

But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (Joh 6:64-69 ESV)

[1] Based upon (these link to the actual resources) Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-centered Ministry in Your City; The Gospel Primer; Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Every Day Stuff of Life; Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus in the Every Day Stuff of Life, which have been critical turning points and impacted all areas of my life and still do.