The term "evolution" has a very different meaning for most people than it does for me. To me it simply means I am a changed person because of Jesus Christ and that I am being continually perfected until His day (Philippians 1:6). One could say that this is an "evolution" or "revolution." However, the semantics are meaningless without the power of Jesus' love behind them.
This document is an account of my journey of faith. That is, how my faith in Christ came about and how it has evolved over time until the present day. It is not my life story or anything, but it is somewhat long and I admit some may find it tedious to read. For this I offer my utmost apologies. I hope that my lack of skill as a writer will not detract from my sincerity or from the glory of Christ which I so desperately wish to commend.
my personal journey of faith
When I was fairly young I listened to my mom explain the plan of salvation to my sister. My sister, I believe, had been feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Not long after she gave her life to Christ I laid in bed one night and knew that I could do nothing to save myself from hell and I accepted Jesus' sacrifice for me on the cross.
My young Christian life was mediocre. Throughout the years, growing up in a Christian home and attending a Christian school I heard about Jesus' love constantly. Even though God's blessings were all around me, the juxtaposition of my life to others gave me a distorted world view. That is, my life didn't look different from anybody else's life, and while I do not think I "followed the crowd," I did not swim against the current either. This is something which I now find regretful and disgraceful. I credit my parents teaching with the fact that I did not do anything incredibly stupid in high school. Throughout high school I had differing commitments to Christ. When I graduated I had a strange feeling that seemed to differ from the rest of the people I knew. I did not have a great sense of accomplishment. Leaving high school and going to college was just the next logical step in my education.
I got a good scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville so I decided to go and major in computer science. I did not do a whole lot of research on either decision. Looking back I can see God's direction even though I did not realize it then. I did not have any real expectations about college life. I did not really prepare spiritually for the transition. This was a real mistake. Looking back on it, I really do not know how I made it. I was living in the "ghetto" dorm which I did not leave because I only had $500 to my name for the entire year. I did not go to church, I did not hang out with my friends much, and my relationship with God dwindled to almost nothing. However, He continued to watch over me.
Sophomore year was better. I went to University Baptist Church just about every Sunday, and since I did not have a TV in my room I had to find other things to do with my time. I read a lot. I digested many books whose subjects ranged from abstract physics, mathematics, and the mythical epics of J. R. R. Tolkien to the humanistic objectivism of Ayn Rand (basically a complete rejection of the reality of God). Also during this time I devoted myself more to online video gaming. Although I had been involved with online gaming since its inception in early 1996 (when id Software's Quake was released in beta test form), during this time I "took it to the next level." I was constantly online playing games and chatting with friends in my online community. The game of choice during this time was Quake 2. I was consistently matching up against some of the best players in the United States and earning respect. However, no matter how big the kill or how impressive the shot, it never satisfied me. I was looking for a rudder in my life and most of the time I looked to myself - my intellect and my skills. I gave up gaming that year at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The rest of the year progressed smoothly, but I was not spending time in the Word or praying like I should. I made a few commitments, but nothing was really solid.
Junior year proved to be quite different. It was during this time that I found the strength to make Jesus my all and realized that nothing except total surrender is acceptable. In of the November of that year I went on a hike which I thought was going to be some great fellowship time with God. It was almost an all day 15 mile hike. When I got to Devil's Den and started hiking it was hotter than I had expected and the bugs and spider webs were driving me crazy. I was getting frustrated with the conditions and started to ask God what I was doing out there. I had such high hopes for the hike, but it seemed as though it would be tedious and boring. I kept walking and praying, but to no seeming avail. Near the tenth mile I stopped and sat down. I was exhausted, nearly out of water and food, and almost as frustrated as I was when I began. I prayed for some relief. I begged for some relief. About that time I heard thunder in the distance. Strangely enough, I like hiking in the rain. This was an amazing answer to prayer. I was on top of a ridge (Quail Ridge) at that point and as the clouds advanced I could hear the sound of the rain coming up the valley to meet me. I started walking with a new vigor. As the shower overtook the whole area I began praying out loud as I walked. God gave me some realizations at that point. Realizations about Himself and about what I was doing with my life and how I had been rebelling against Him. Within a few minutes there was a thunder cloud right over my head and it was so deafening I thought lightning was striking the top of the ridge. The sound of the thunder claps literally brought me to my knees in fear. At that point I could no longer hear myself praying out loud so I started yelling. I begged God to break me so that I could know Him better and be used by Him more effectively. I finished the last five miles stopping only once to wring out my socks (which didn't help much). God changed me somehow on that hike. He revealed Himself to me in a way I had never experienced before, and he gave me an unshakeable faith in Him.
Since then, He has answered that prayer for brokenness many times and in many ways. It has been the most painful and the most rewarding experience of my life. During this time God gave me the desire to go to Brazil for a few years and help disciple college students in São Paulo. Shortly thereafter I began the process of being accepted and commissioned as a Journeyman missionary by the IMB.
Because of my decision to go overseas and my roommate's (Josh Newton) plans to go to Europe and study architecture I decided to graduate early. This meant that I had to go to school full time during the summer after my Junior year which also meant that I would be in school full time for a year solid. I knew that, although this would be a great challenge, it was what God wanted.
So I stayed in Fayetteville during the summer of 2000 and took 15 hours of class. This proved to be a great decision - as following God always does. That summer was the best of my life. I spent a great deal of time alone with God. I learned a lot about myself and how I relate to others. God really used that time to strengthen my faith and solidify Himself in my heart and mind. He gave me faith that I didn't think was possible. He took me places emotionally and spiritually that I had previously been unwilling to go. He gave me a bigger picture of Himself. Despite the challenging classes and very challenging schedule, God gave me my first semester 4.0 of my college career. This was a huge blessing and big confidence booster. What I didn't know was that this was the calm before the storm.
The last semester of my college career turned out to be the hardest by far. The classes I was taking along with my other responsibilities and my pursuit of a position overseas with the IMB was incredibly taxing. I took on the responsibility of teaching a small group of college students some basic apologetics. This was a great experience as it allowed me to exercise one of my passions (teaching) and help the body of Christ at the same time. In the midst of these things I sacrificed my time with God in order to strive for better grades. Its not that I completely stopped having a daily, focused time with God, it was that I did it much less frequently. As the end of the semester approached my desires seemed to be materializing. Even in my worst subject, Calculus III, I was heading for an 'A'. The time that I had spent at the front end working on the design of my semester projects in my other classes was now paying off. I just had to finish strongly.
I was able to finish strongly in all of my classes but one - Cal III. This was exceptionally painful because it would have been the 'A' of which I would have been most proud. It all came down the final exam. I was very confident in my abilities to perform well because, after all, I had done well all semester long. However, as I sat in that class room in the corner of the Agricultural building, the snow and ice still on the ground from the winter storm we had the previous week, I realized that I had not finished strongly enough. Many of the problems confounded me. I looked for things that I recognized and found very few. I fought with the test for a long time not wanting to admit that my 'A', and thus my 4.0 for the semester, was gone. It was as if I could hear God clearly saying, "You took your eyes off Me and focused on the wrong prize." Indeed I had, and I learned a hard lesson that day. I turned my test in, walked out, and prayed for forgiveness as I walked back to my apartment in the bitter cold.
I returned home to Little Rock the following week happy, but emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. It took a few weeks for me to get back to full steam. During that time I was able to reflect on what my time at the University meant to me and how far God had brought me since my days of binge gaming. The lesson that I learned the day of my Cal final pretty much sums up what I learned that entire semester - when you take your eyes off God and focus on a lesser prize, you will always be disappointed.
Since that time I have come to more clearly understand my role in the body of Christ through some of my discipleship relationships. Guys like Lewie Clark (in Little Rock) and Mark Kincannon (in Fayetteville) have spent so much time with me and imparted so much wisdom that their impact on my faith cannot be measured. They have been an incredible blessing from God. They would be the first ones to admit that the glory all belongs to Christ, and indeed it does. However, that does not change the fact that they have invested themselves in me and I owe them a great many thanks - all to the glory of God.
They way God has impacted me through the lives of these men and the Biblical foundation of their method have led me to find my own ministry. This ministry is simple - I invest my life in the lives of other people, build a relationship with them, love them, believe in them, and give them confidence all in the power of Christ and for the sake of His name. To understand this idea I think it is imperative to experience it, and so this is where my explanation of discipleship comes to its, perhaps premature, end and the next part of my journey begins as I disciple others in the name of Christ.