Different people blog for different reasons. I’ve been asked to write for many years now. I do write multiple sermons every week. I’ve published a lengthy book on Bibliology (fancy name for the doctrine of the Bible.) I write short articles every week for our church family that is sent out by email. So, I do write quite a bit. I try not to do something without knowing the goal and purpose. But before I get to that purpose for this blog, let me tell you a little about my faith journey with Christ.
I was reared in an itinerant minister’s home. By the time I was twelve, I had traveled to almost every state and multiple foreign countries. We lived in a different home every week or in our travel trailer and I went to church almost every night.
At an early age, I trust Christ and was baptized. At twelve, I was not happy with the place and family God had ordained for me. I had a brother who was nine years younger and a new born sister. I was unhappy that God had picked me to grow-up in the parsonage “zoo.” By that I mean, I knew as an evangelist’s kid, I was like the animal in the zoo that people stared at and hoped for a “trick.” I was angry at God’s sovereignty in my life. However, that anger was more me pushing back against God’s call on my life for ministry than anything else.
A few months after I turned twelve a guest speaker came to our church in Tempe, Arizona. He was a preacher’s kid and he told of his struggle to yield himself to God’s call. We were forty years apart in age, but we had similar struggles. That night I surrendered to do as God would have me do. However, like many decisions, it slipped into the back of my head and it wasn’t until I was 14, at a winter retreat, that I fully yielded to God’s plan and never looked back. A little like Paul on his way to Damascus, when I yielded, my life has never been the same. I wanted to preach and teach and lead people to Christ. I began to read my Bible 30 to 45 minutes every day, not because my parents asked me to, but because I was so in love with Jesus and the Holy Spirit was teaching me so many truths every day.
The summer I turned 15, I met the young lady who would be my wife. Within a year, I was in deep “like.” We graduated from a small Christian school in 1981. I spent the seven years after giving my life to the Lord doing everything I could to serve Him. I preached somewhere nearly every week to all different age groups from 4yr olds to the elderly in Nursing Homes. I wanted to share Christ.
Elma and I were both from poorer homes. My parents were in vocational ministry and hers divorced when she was a young teen. We paid our way through college working two and three jobs at a time. We graduated from the same small Bible college in 1985 and were married a few weeks later.
We took our few belongings and packed them in a small trailer to be towed by our 1973 Olds ’98 that I paid $500 for and set off for seminary in a suburb of Philadelphia. We broke down five times during that trip, but arrived safely. We spent the next three years working and going to school. My wife taught 3rd grade and worked nights. I took 16 hours of grad school each of six semesters and worked 25-45 hours each week. We believed God wanted us in an itinerant ministry that centered on evangelism.
We saved enough money after paying for seminary to buy a truck and a trailer. We held meetings for children, teens, and adults all through the year. It was during these three years that God blessed us with Dave, 1989, and Sara, 1990. Many people received Christ, but God’s leading in our life was clear. He wanted us in the Air Force chaplaincy.
So, in July of 1991, I drove my wife, our two children, and our few possessions onto Beale, AFB. I had always had a fascination with the military and was a member of a Military Book Club as a teenager. I spent hours reading military histories and stories, never dreaming I would be allowed to combine my two loves, Christ and the military, into one ministry.
I was handed the primarily African-American congregation on base that met in an old dilapidated chapel. For the next three years God blessed and I had the privilege of baptizing over 100 individuals. The congregation grew from 20 to 220 and the singles Bible study that I led grew from 1 to over 50. Our family grew to love and adore this congregation whose stories about their childhoods were nothing like our own, but we were united in Christ.
In 1994, the Air Force directed us to Andersen AFB in Guam. Again, I was handed the African-American service and once again, our suburban white family just fell in love with our primarily black congregation. The service grew from 90 to well over 400 in two years. Every quarter we did a large baptism on the beach and over two years I had the privilege of baptizing over 200 people.
In 1996, our home church and my childhood pastor/mentor came calling. The Deacons and Sr Pastor asked me to come back and upon the vote of the congregation take over leadership of my home church, Tri-City Baptist, at the time, in Tempe, Arizona.
After a three-year Assistant/Co-Pastor transition, the church voted me as the Sr Pastor effective September 1, 1999. Our founding Pastor received a diagnosis of terminal cancer just days before I became pastor. He lived and preached around the world for nearly two years, but then went home to the Savior he so loved in the summer of 2001.
I’ve remained in the Air Force Air Reserve Component (ARC). I am an Air Guardsman and hold the rank of Colonel. I’ve served around the world in multiple deployments and have been blessed to see people come to know Christ wherever He has led me. It’s a joy to baptize new believers in countries where it is illegal to be a Christian. I’ve had that privilege several times.
My son, Dave, is a 2011 graduate of the Air Force Academy and a combat pilot. He is married to an elementary teacher, just like his mother and grandmother. My daughter has her RN from Mesa Community College and her BSN through the on-line program at Grand Canyon University. She uses her degree both to teach student nurses and work as a postpartum nurse in a major hospital in Mesa, Arizona. She is married to a structural engineer and they both faithfully attend Tri-City. Elma and I are blessed with both a tremendous son-in-law and daughter-in-law.
In 2002, through clear providential leading, our church voted to buy land and build a new campus for our growing ministry about ten miles away in Chandler, Arizona. I can’t even begin to explain what the next seven years were like. Leading a church that was far too small to host a Bible college, Christian school, Christian Pre-school, Mission Agency, in the first place and add to that attempting to build a new campus in the desert was simply ridiculous. But the Lord gave our congregation the vision to see the growth of the city and the space needed to train the men and women He had chosen for us.
The economy crashed, the banks wouldn’t loan us money, we formed our own construction company, we volunteered work day after work day and the Lord was with us over seven years. Our church built a near 100,000-square foot auditorium/schools/gymnasium building, a 18,000-square foot dormitory, 15,000- square feet of college classroom and library building, and a 4,500-square foot maintenance building.
The graduates of our schools and our members have personally shared Christ with millions of people over the last 21 years. Large numbers of those have professed salvation. Our church and mission agency has been responsible for scores of churches being planted around the world. We are a blessed ministry.
I just turned 54 in August. My life and the life of my wife has been a constant journey in faith. Like Abraham, I can look back and see many times that I have been very weak in my faith, but God knows my heart and is so patient with me. I can see how blessed we are and how often I take those blessings for granted. I can see God graciously leading us step by step even though I couldn’t always see it myself. As my wife says, “He always gives us what we need and not necessarily what we want.”
As I think of a blog I think I would like to write about a faith journey. God has chosen a unique path for my wife and myself in our 32+ years of marriage. This blog will be about looking at the world through the lens of faith. So, it might be personal as in a reflection on a quiet time with the Lord. It might be about cultural issues that cause believers to pause or grow concerned. It might simply be a tremendous blessing God has brought into our lives.
But in the end, every sin’s root cause is unbelief. The sin that so besets us in Hebrews 12:1 must contextually be, unbelief, as the preceding context is all about faith. The sin that constantly attacks me and those I care most for is the sin of unbelief. That’s the reason for a “Parson’s Pen” that continually takes us back to faith. The honest journey of faith is both exhilarating and frightening. Join me as I speak to faith: its calling and its joy.