Rocky ChildhoodI was the fourth of five boys--all born before my mother’s twenty-third birthday. My father began drinking alcohol when he was twenty-one years old and never stopped until he died at the age of forty-two. “My father was a mean drunk who verbally and physically abused all of us.” I have no idea what a normal father is supposed to be like. My father was a mean drunk who verbally and physically abused all of us throughout our childhood. Our main goals were to endure and escape. And we all did. I left home when I was fifteen years old.
Drugs and AlcoholThe words fast and hard define my upbringing, probably because by the time I was twelve I was shoplifting, drinking alcohol, and smoking weed. Three years later, I found myself in jail, which later turned into two years of probation. "Going to jail was one of the major turning points of my life." Being incarcerated was a wakeup call. My two older brothers were already in prison. My time in jail was a clear warning that I was heading their way. What I didn’t know at that time was how their lives would abruptly end. My oldest brother was murdered in 1987, and my next oldest brother was murdered ten years later in 1997.
Self-ReformationWhat I did know was that I had to change my lifestyle. Jail was the reason I decided to clean up my act. Since I did not know the LORD, the best thing I could do was self-reformation (Proverbs 14:12). So I reformed. Reflectively, I would say that being locked up in jail was one of the many blessings the LORD used to put me on the road to change (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Four years later, my father died. I was nineteen years old. The next year, I married a co-worker, embarking on my dream to have a different kind of life from my childhood. Initially this new plan was working. A daughter and son soon followed. They were two more dreams to come true. It was a good life, but not a perfect one. I began to feel that there was something still missing. I began to sense a deep void in my soul. Though self-reformation was helpful, it was not satisfying. “I sensed a deep void in my soul.” By 1984, I was working in a machine shop where someone told me about Christ. Though I had known about God because we were made to attend church as children, religion was not appealing to me. Frankly, church was just another good place to get some good weed.
RegenerationThen the Lord imposed Himself into my life. I was regenerated in the fall of 1984 (John 3:7). This life-altering event was the true missing piece that seemed so elusive. The perplexing riddles of my soul were now being solved as the LORD's salvation set in motion the call of God on my life, which has since defined all that I do. I quickly fell in love with the Bible (Psalm 119:16). It became my constant companion. Within a year of attending my new church, I was teaching Sunday school, working with the youth, singing in the choir, and doing evangelism work in my small community of Monroe, North Carolina.
DarknessIn early 1986 our family moved 135 miles south to Greenville, South Carolina, so I could attend a small Bible college. It seemed right, as I was determined to follow God by pursuing formal training for ministry. I soon found out that our plans are not always God’s plans. What I didn’t perceive was yet another life-altering event--one that would most dramatically shape me to the ministry the LORD had already prepared for me (Jeremiah 1:5). It was April 08, 1988--nearing the end of my sophomore year in college--when I walked through the door of our home and saw the piano was missing. As I desperately ran through our home, it became apparent what had happened. My wife had chosen a relationship with another man, and she had taken our two children with her. That was the single most horrifying experience of my life. “Within fifteen hours I lost 10 pounds, and though I did not know it, that was just the beginning of sorrows.” I lived the next nine years in an isolated and desperate funk. Alienated from my legalistic church community, I realized that every dream that I dreamed for a life with a normal family experience was shattered. During this season I was physically and emotionally a wreck, as the mighty hand of God was shaping me in the crucible of suffering. I was learning God's plan for my life: I went to college to become educated in the Bible; I was driven into the wilderness to become educated about God. (cf. Mark 1:12-13)
Out of the DepthsIt would take me twenty-five years before I would write about the experiences in those dark days. During that time of unremitting darkness, I read and re-read the book of Job for four consecutive years. I knew the end of Job's story--how the Lord blessed him in chapter forty-two (Job 42:10), and I desperately wanted to experience that from God. The problem was the forty-one chapters before the blessing. Apart from salvation, there is no question that this season was the most painful and transformative season of all. I was resigned that it would be a season that would never end. This assumption added to the pain that was all-encompassing and beyond anything I had ever experienced. I stood on the precipice and stared into my future; all I could see was more darkness, ad infinitum. During those years the Lord taught me many things, which I eventually put in a small book, “How to Steward God’s Most Feared Blessing.” I recorded these lessons hoping the Spirit of God would use His work in my life to comfort others in some small way.
Unmerited Suffering Brings Uncommon GraceAlthough I did not immediately recognize what the LORD was doing to me, years later I learned how my uncommon suffering and God’s unmerited favor were the perfect ingredients to do a vessel-changing work in my life (Philippians 2:12-13). All of the suffering was actually working together for my good, God’s glory, and the benefit of others (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20). The LORD did and continues to unrelentingly bestow His two most profound gifts on me—the gift of salvation and the gift of suffering (Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 2:21; John 12:24).
My deepest and most intense desire is to serve Him by creating biblical resources for those who are hurting, struggling, confused, and/or wanting a stronger walk with Jesus. Our ministry mission statement is to help people by providing practical tools and ongoing training for more effective living.“My passion to share the life-changing message of the gospel was born out of a broken heart, restored by God and redeemed for His fame.”