Thanks to Tim Challies, for hosting this carnival so to speak. I hope that as you read my testimony it is clear that I am completely undeserving of the grace that God has bestowed upon me. And I remain completely in His mercy until He calls me home.
My life is a picture of grace and how the sovereign hand of God can protect and transform the worst of sinners.
I was born August 9th, 1976 to soon-to-be divorced parents. I grew up in Jefferson City, MO and was raised in a Catholic church. My parents, both non-believers, would struggle with everything from alcohol to mental-illness. My mother would be institutionalized four times during my childhood and adolescent years.
At the age of 13, I moved in with my father in a small racist town twenty minutes away from where I grew up. That began a seven year journey as far away from God as I could get. It was during my teenage years that I would try everything to fill the giant void that was in my heart. I had been hurt so badly and wanted to be loved so much, that I would do anything not to feel the pain of the previous 15+ years.
Having lost a full ride scholarship, thousand of dollars, and any sense of moral responsibility, God intervened my sophomore year in college. One night, a friend I had gotten to know through a leadership program we were both in closed the door to my dorm room and shared with me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His words echo to this day as he told me “that I knew ABOUT Jesus, but that I wasn’t living FOR Jesus”. Truer words could not have been spoken.
Christ was not my treasure. What made it even more amazing was that God sent a 6’4, 400 lb. African-American messenger named George Johnson. God sent a black man to share the Gospel with a white kid from the racist backwoods. Diversity is something I cherish.
Since that night, things have never been the same. I met my wife at a small software company. I was baptized at Second Baptist Church and was married shortly thereafter. We moved to St. Louis where God would bless me with the opportunity to lead an Upward Basketball ministry at our local church. In three short years, we watched our ministry grow to over 720 players with the opportunity to minister to over 2,000 people weekly. We had it all. Successful jobs, successful ministry, close to family, great incomes, big houses, a hot tub on the back deck, we had a beautiful new baby boy that was healthy. Things were not as they seemed. My wife and I were working sixty hours a week, letting daycare raise our son, and struggling to maintain Christ as the focus of our marriage. And then a day the world will never forget.
My wife Jenni was in New York on September 11th. I remember not knowing where she was for over an hour and being clueless as to whether or not she was still alive. when we finally made contact, the statement she made to me still rings in my ears “I don’t know what’s going to change, but something has to”. It was that day that we decided to go after God with all we had and never look back.
The following April, I agreed to go on staff with Upward Unlimited, a growing sports ministry in Spartanburg, SC. I hadn’t been there long when a friend introduced me to a man named John Piper. He suggested that I read his book “Desiring God” and it was as though God leapt off the pages at me and once again re-defined the Christian life for me. It was as if God said to me, “leaving everything is not enough, if you don’t do it for ME”. Since that introduction, my world has changed through the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church and Desiring God ministries.
In the last three years, God has transformed us. He has brought people into our lives that have taught us so much about Him, how to love people, and how to love each other. He’s set me across from pastors of churches who have asked me how to reach their community. He’s given me the opportunity to develop dear relationships with people all around the country and to share in the victories as they share the love of Jesus with lost people in their cities.
What does Jesus mean to me? Everything! I see His sovereign hand throughout my life and my ministry. He has prepared me and has been faithful to me every step of the way. Paul argues in Romans that we are justified by faith alone. I couldn’t agree
more. I’ve never been good enough. I’ve never worked hard enough. I’ve never been worth enough. I am a sinner saved by grace. But yet Jesus, the Son of God, reached down from heaven and put His hand upon my life and called me, the least of all people, to enjoy Him forever. I stand in agreement with Paul: “I am what I am by the grace of God”.