I was once told to discover those things that you “cannot-not” do and in them I would find the reason that God had created me. These “cannot-not” things are those things that are an essential part of your being; they are the things that make you whole. And for me, there are three: I am a preacher, a teacher, and an author. These things I do because I cannot conceive of myself doing anything other.
And so, you have found me here, doing that which is fundamental to my person…yet, for me, this blog is more than a collection of random musings. For better or worse, I tend to see the world a little differently than most people around me. While most people see the world as it is and learn to cope with it, I see the world as it is and long to see it as it could be. And while I recognize the logical error of assuming that “ought” implies “is,” this gives me a platform to challenge the complacency of the church and the world and this blog reflects that platform.
Most fundamentally, too many Christians are illiterate as to the Bible and the theology that that the Bible teaches. This makes them spiritually immature, weak, and prone to follow the heresies of men. And so I cry out not only from the pulpit and from the laptop and pray to God that he will open the ears of people to hear. I cannot do otherwise.
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Who am I?
At my very core, I am a country boy, raised in the rolling hills of rural Harford County, Maryland (about 45 minutes northeast of Baltimore). Growing up, my playground consisted of about 60 acres of woods located behind my parents’ house and some of my best childhood memories were formed during adventures with my friends back amongst the rocks and trees of those woods. Even today, give me trees and fields over city streets any day of the week.
My bride of 20 years grew up with me in that part of Maryland also. Though she is two-years my junior, we went to Elementary School, Middle School, High School, college, and church together. So, in a sense, I have known her most of my life, though by God’s grace, he kept the two of us apart until I was through my rebellious years. And so, we were never High School sweethearts and her family sat in the back pew of the church while my parents sat in the front (and, as they say, “ne’er the twain shall meet”).
We became an “item” shortly after leading a TRUE LOVE WAITS program with the youth of our church…and the rest, as they say, is history. We have two children (15 and 11 respectively). My son’s choice form of expression is through video (check out PTG Productions on YouTube) and my daughter’s preferred mode of expression is through dance.
Rebellion and A Call to Faith
I am the classic prodigal son. I dropped out of college at 19, left home, and went to make my place in the world as a manager for Domino’s Pizza. After several years of living badly, God began the process of bringing me to my senses. I lost my job because I had too many speeding tickets. I boomaranged back to my parents’ house and bounced between jobs for a while before going back to college.
During those years of rebellion, I wanted nothing to do with the church or the things of God. To me, that represented rules and I wanted to live entirely for myself and by my own code. These proved to be dark years. I did have a Christian friend who would send me Christian music, knowing that I would listen to whatever he sent me at least once. So, on a lonely December afternoon, after final exams, I was listening to one such album: Petra’s Out of this World. It was a life album that contained an “altar call.” In my bedroom, alone and broken, God drove me to my knees, repenting of my sin, and surrendering my miserable life to His Son, Jesus Christ. And that night my life changed…radically.
A Call to Ministry
When I first began exploring the question of “calling,” my pastor at the time told me not to pursue the ministry unless I would not be satisfied doing anything else. It was one of those “cannot-not” statements again. So, I took those words as permission to pursue other things. At the time, I was working as a carpet installer and in the process of establishing my own business. I was happy doing my own thing and my new bride was not much pleased with the notion of becoming a “pastor’s-wife.”
I was encouraged, though, by one of my mentors, to “test my gifts.” So, I went through the process of becoming licensed in the Methodist church (the denomination in which I was raised) to preach…which I did for 5 years. By the end of that five years, I was in the pulpit more Sundays than I was out of it and regularly being told by congregants that God was calling me to serve Him full-time.
So, after 5 years 3 things changed. First, having spent 5 years preparing sermons, my theology changed and without really knowing what being “Reformed” was, I had become Reformed and the Wesleyan answers I had been given over the years to things like election, predestination, and free-will were no longer satisfying. Second, God had once again brought me to my knees before his throne and I was forced to come face to face with the reality that I had been fleeing his call. Third, God opened my wife’s heart to the idea that pursuing His will for our lives was better than us pursuing our own will for our lives…even if that meant she would become a “pastor’s-wife.”
From Maryland to Pennsylvania the Long Way
Seminary led us to Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, MS. We closed my business, sold much of our belongings and our house, and headed south for 4 years. While in seminary I continued installing carpet as a means to provide for my growing family. Both of our children are Mississippi born and were bookends during our time in school. While in school, I also served as a chaplain for 3.5 years at Gateway Rescue Mission, a downtown transient shelter for the homeless and preached regularly in several PCA and OPC congregations.
After seminary, I accepted a call to serve as Chaplain for Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville, Florida. While there I also accepted a call to serve as Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Milton, Florida, about 45 miles down the road from where we lived.
I cannot say enough good things about the School, the people who served there (and its students), and the very kind people at Westminster Pres., with whom we fell in love. And while I grew and matured in that bi-vocational context, the distance and constant travel took its toll on me and on my family. In addition, once again I was forced to wrestle with the question of how God was calling me to serve. Also, the distance from our aging parents in Maryland weighed upon us. So, after 5 years of serving in Florida, the Elders at Westminster gave me permission to seek a call further north and closer to family.
Western Pennsylvania is beautiful and the area (as well as our church) reminded us of the area and church in which we had grown up in. It is rural farmland, just the hills are a little taller than the ones back in Maryland.
In coming to St. John’s (Burry’s) Church, I left the PCA. This congregation comes out of the German Reformed tradition and is an independent ecclesiastical church body. While the theology is solidly conservative and Reformed, the church’s ecclesiology was different enough from that of the PCA that I saw it as a conflict to keep my ordination within the denomination, so it was transferred to the local congregation here.
That took place in 2011 and since then my family and I have settled into our Pennsylvania home, our community, and I have sought to shepherd the flock with which Christ has charged me. There have been bumps along the road, but the transition has been a healthy one personally and professionally.
In addition to serving as pastor, I also continue to teach theology to seminary students in Ukraine, through Reformed International Theological Education (RITE), typically teaching two weeks out of each year. Also, I serve on the Advisory Board for The North American Reformed Seminary (TNARS), which provides a seminary-level education through the internet at no cost.
Odds and Ends
Life is busy, but in my free time, I enjoy gardening, splitting my own firewood, and historical (ancients) war-gaming with little lead figures (yes, I never grew out of playing with army men!). I like to read and cook and I make a mean hot-pepper sauce when the crop is good. My philosophy regarding books is borrowed from Desiderius Erasmus, who said, “If I get a little money, I buy books; if there is anything left, I buy food and clothing.” Yes, my wife is a patient woman.
Some of my favorite authors outside of the Bible are C.S. Lewis, J.C. Ryle, John Dick, and Ronald Nash. I am also a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I am also a bit of a “Mac Snob”…well, maybe more than a little bit.
This is my personal blog and while I welcome disagreements, I do not welcome disagreements that are belligerent or disrespectful. I vet every comment before it goes online to ensure that the tone and spirit of this blog is irenic even when we have a passionate disagreement about important ideas.