Friday, June 18, 2010

On Life Changes - Graduation

Today begins my first post in a series dedicated to the many "big" life changes we often face as the days of life rapidly pass by us and how God has worked in me through the presence of many of these at one time.


For many college graduation is an exciting, yet also a very scary time. Through many long hours of diligent, hard work (or lack there of), degrees are finally earned and we are able to advance into the real world where money can be made and lives can begin. However, for many this is also where the fear takes hold. For most of our lives, we have known the securities that our parents have provided and have hid under the proverbial blanket that is schooling. For many of us, school has played an huge role in our lives for over seventeen years of our twenty-some years of existence. However, despite these cliche moments that a college graduation often presents, most of the thoughts and feelings I have experienced, and what God has taught me in the process have nothing to do with them.

Entering my undergraduate years, I was certain of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I had a plan, I was sticking to it and I was going to be successful. God however had a completely different plan set for my life and in the early moments of my collegiate career called me to a life that would be spent for Him and His gospel that He might gain sole glory for the days remaining for me on this earth. This calling set forth for me a different, yet still exciting path for me towards obtaining my degree that I may move on to theological training at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. So with a calling so sure and more school looming ahead in the future, what could God have possibly taught me in this transition and big moment in my life?

Public relations, my undergraduate area of study, was something that I had longed to pursue for a long time in my life. For a while, it was what I live and breathed. When God called me into ministry, I knew fully that I was made to do nothing else but serve Him in full-time ministry, yet I never really had to physically give up the career I had so longed to pursue until my graduation day. It was easy to talk and say that I was giving up everything I had always wanted. But until I graduated, I never really fully had to give it up. Graduating from my undergraduate studies caused me to relinquish everything I had always dreamed and wanted that I might be used by God for His name and renown.

During this time, many days were spent in darkness, despite being overjoyed for the time that is still to come and the journey that God has remaining for my life. I cried out to God several nights wondering why He had chosen me to do His work and why other people were chosen to fulfill His calling by doing the things they loved. It was in this time that two particular passages of Scripture gave me comfort and encouragement to press on in the calling God had made so apparent in my heart.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. [Acts 20:24]

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. [Philippians 3:8-16]

These verses encouraged me greatly in giving up everything I had gained, my dreams and accolades, that I might obtain a prize far greater than any that this earth can offer. God's calling is greater than man's longing. God's Word remains faithful and it spurs us on to do the work of the Lord, knowing full well that our reward is not of this earth. My sinful heart may yearn for what this world offers, it may yearn for what I could have accomplished in the career I always wanted. However, I have been given the grace to know the worth which surpasses all of this world and that is knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. And even greater, I have been called to not account my life as precious or dear to myself, but to finish the course and the ministry which I received from Him. With His strength sustaining me, despite the great sorrow that filled my heart, I was able to say with hope as I walked across the stage to receive my degree:
forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Long, Long Overdue

At the end of March I never intended to stop writing. Here I am in June, caught up by the events life has brought, having not posted in almost three months. Between final projects, graduating, planning a wedding and getting used to the schedule of working daily eight-to-five has hindered my ability to fully think of keeping up with the blog and for that I apologize. However, writing is an art that can never escape me for too long and I plan to begin updating regularly here, despite the continued life events that loom ahead. Over the next few days, I'll be starting to post regularly again, beginning with a series on the big life changes that have occurred and the ones that lie ahead. I firmly believe God gives comfort and promise in all change, no matter how big, and have sought in all these endeavors to cling and seek Him, knowing He knows full well what plan is best for my life. So hello again and I hope and pray your deeply encouraged in the Lord by my words in the days and weeks to come.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

God is Always Good

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

HT: John Piper


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Gospel Coalition

For more information regarding The Gospel Coalition, visit their website.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Let The Journey Begin

I recently received the news with great excitement that I have been accepted to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue my Master in Divinity. This stage in my life is something I have looked forward to with much anticipation for the past few years now and am filled with overwhelming joy that this time has arrived. Only God knows where this new beginning will take Casey and I, because only He knows what the future holds. However, the one thing that remains certain is the calling which He has so firmly placed upon my heart and life. The following is my spiritual autobiography I wrote as a part of the application process to Southern. In it I explain my calling, how I came to know the Gospel, what I believe to be the Gospel and why I chose Southern for my seminary education.


The apostle Paul wrote in Acts 20:24, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Speaking to the Ephesian elders, Paul conveys with such passion and surety the calling of which he received from the Lord. Knowing what lies ahead in his journey, knowing that he will face many trials and sufferings, he proclaims boldly of the calling Christ has put upon his life.

This also is my calling. I have no knowledge of what lies ahead, only that I must push forward and fulfill the calling of which Christ has so evidently placed upon my heart and life. This calling, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I have received so graciously by my Lord Jesus Christ, to know Him more fully and to make Him more fully known. This calling, I am sure, has been so powerfully written into the fabric of my being that no trial, no suffering, nor even the fear of death could separate me from what I know is to be true in my life and that is that the Lord Jesus Christ ransomed me so that I might proclaim His glorious name to a corrupt generation and shifting culture.

Growing up as the son of a pastor, this calling seemed so close, yet so distant. I grew up around the gospel, I knew the gospel, yet somehow I never fully embraced the gospel. I came to the realization of needing Jesus Christ as my Savior at the age of seven, while my father served as a youth minister outside of Detroit, Michigan. Despite this commitment to know and follow Jesus as my Lord, I very rarely showed it in my life and actions in the years to follow. Throughout middle school and high school, I followed my own way and life was about pleasing myself and seeking after the things that I desired. Outwardly I lived a life apparent to be Christian, because it was what I had been taught, but inwardly I was living a life full of my own pride and hanging onto my father’s faith.

It was during my senior year of high school that God began to lay forth His plan of redemption in my life; a plan that would turn my world upside down and radically change my heart and innermost desires. My plan throughout my final year in high school was to attend Eastern Kentucky University and major in public relations. However, by God’s grace I received a full ride scholarship to any in-state institution of my choice and I quickly changed my plans from Eastern Kentucky University to West Virginia University. Through this scholarship and change in my plans for undergraduate study, God began to unveil His plan of greatly revealing Himself to me and calling me to a life of service to Him.

West Virginia University is known throughout the state and nation as one of the largest party schools in the country. It was my full intention to join this party and enjoy the years that college life would bring. However, by the sovereign hand and grace of God, people had been placed in my life from the minute I stepped foot onto campus that encouraged and led me in a different direction. I began to get involved with Baptist Campus Ministry and very quickly God gripped into me a fear I had never before experienced.

Throughout the first few weeks of my college experience, I spent many nights on the floor, on my knees crying out to God. This fear He had placed so deep within me, was so evident, so clear that I could not resist the work that was taking place. It was during this time that I came, in my own heart and life, to know the person and work of Jesus Christ. It was also during this time, that I not only came to know Christ as my Savior and Precious Redeemer, but that I also felt a deep calling to spend the rest of my days He had ordained for me proclaiming His name to the lost, broken and depraved.

Although I knew this Savior of mine and knew His calling upon my life, it was not until a couple of years after these initial moments in my dorm room that I came to know what I know to be the gospel today. In the spring of 2008, my father invited me, along with other men of our church, to attend the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky. It was during this conference, that God began working in me to not only call Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior and to feel His calling into ministry, but in these two distinct foundations of my life to deeply know and understand Him and His Word.

It was in the foundation laid at this conference, and in the weeks and months that have since followed, with much study of Scripture and books, that I have come to know the gospel that God has undeservingly called me to preach: God in His infinite and immeasurable grace, knew that in our depraved hearts and minds we could not obtain salvation on our own, and in knowing this began a journey and dwelled among us in the form of Jesus Christ His son, so that He might become the perfect sacrifice needed to ransom our souls and thereby grant eternal salvation through the washing and regenerate work of the Holy Spirit to those of us who would believe in Him that to Him and Him alone would be the glory forevermore.

This is what I have come to know as the essential Truth, by which I must preach and by which I must call men to repentance. God has deeply planted within me a desire to know Him more fully and to make Him more fully known. So much so, that by the power at work within me, nothing can separate me from this calling to proclaim His name to a hardened generation. When looking for a place that would equip me for this calling, a place that would stand on the basis of Truth and nothing else, God brought me to Southern Seminary. No other place, I believe, stands for the Truth and prepares men to uphold the marvelous gift of God’s Word like that of Southern Seminary. I have bathed this decision in deep prayer and counsel from others, and know that nowhere else will I be best equipped to come to a deeper knowledge of God, that I may fulfill my calling in the Lord to make Him more fully known.


How Majoring in Public Relations Has Prepared Me For Ministry

Recently I was asked to write an essay on how my experience in the public relations department has prepared me for my future career. The following is what I wrote.


My career journey is not a usual path for a public relations student. Many students dream of working large events, going to law school or owning their own public relations firm. These once were my dreams too; however the work of God in a person’s life can open their heart to paths which at a time may have seemed very unlikely. My future now includes going to seminary for graduate study to prepare me for becoming a minister in a local congregation. How then do I justify these four years of study with such a drastic career change, one that seems so far and distant from the field of which I have studied these past four years? The answer lies in the biggest lesson I have learned throughout my time in the public relations program: the practice of public relations is everywhere and can be useful in everything.

I knew entering my first years of undergraduate study that the field was interesting; I know leaving that it is one of the most fascinating areas of study because of its application to almost every field and avenue of life. In my future ministry, the fundamentals that have been taught to me will prove beneficial to helping me fulfill what I believe is my life’s utmost calling: to know God more fully and make Him more fully known. Even one of the crucial tools of understanding and knowing your audience applies to my future ministry; the ability to know and to discern the culture in which I live and minister.

The experiences that have helped better equip me for that life are endless. However, the craft I believe will be most useful in my future work is writing. Entering into the program my freshmen year, I knew I enjoyed writing, but had yet to be challenged in a way that brought out my full potential. My four years within the public relations program have helped me to discover my potential in writing; so much so, that one of my heart’s desires is to someday write a book. The skills I have acquired in being able to pull from numerous sources and create a final product with the power of words will be highly valuable. I leave this program believing that one of the greatest abilities one could possess is that of understanding the beauty of words and how to use them to best serve one’s purpose.

There was a moment in my years of study that I fooled myself into thinking that my undergraduate degree would be a waste. Conversely, the experiences and skills I have learned within the public relations program have proved so valuable; there is not another program available that would better prepare me for the future that lays waiting. Many think my love for the field is unusual, being that I will never have a typical public relations job. My future career may not be typical, however, it will certainly be public relations: for God.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another World Is Possible

My friend has a great post regarding Another World Is Possible, a week dedicated to bringing campus ministries together at West Virginia University. In preparing for the week, which starts Sunday, he writes:

I pray that in the week to come, and until His return for that matter, that we remember our first true love first and foremost. As we pursue to reveal the social atrocities of this world, may we more importantly pursue to reveal the atrocities we have committed against our God. As we are filled with passion towards the oppressed and dying, may we overflow with passion for the One that saved us from the oppression of sin and the death of eternal punishment. Sacrifices that uplift our fellow man are essential to our Christian walk, but without a proper heart and a repentant soul they are merely vanity.
I encourage you to read the rest.


About Standing Firm

Standing Firm was created to be a source of theological truth in a world that is filled with philosophies and empty deceit. God's Word is filled with charges to those that are called by His name to stand firm and to not be conformed to this world. We must heed the charge of the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome: "I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a spiritual sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1-2).

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