Thursday, July 31, 2014

Go therefore and make disciples...

I have been blessed in so many ways over the past few weeks. I have wanted to put some words together, but there has been so much going through my head, it's been tough. This is going to be long, but if you are interested in what makes me tick, read on.

I was raised up in church most of my life. As a child, my Mom took me to many different kinds of churches: Southern Methodist, Free Will Baptist, Pentecostal Holiness, Assemblies of God and a few others. As a child I was "saved" and baptized as a part of a Free Will Baptist church...old school style in Lynches River while everybody was singing "Shall We Gather at the River". It's a great memory. I'm glad I had that experience.

I first felt the call to be a minister as a child really, as funny as it sounds. My Mom (and others around me) thought it was 'cute' when I preached to people in Dr.'s office waiting rooms, etc. That faded and again, in my teenage years I felt another tug at my heart. Sadly, I didn't listen, or even tell anyone about it.  The first major setback in my life plans happened when I was about 16. My Mom was a baker in a grocery store. We never had much when I was growing up, but she did the very best she could. We ended up moving to a school where I was miserable and I dropped out of school -- I went to work as a concrete finisher.

A few years later my Mom had gotten really ill, and became unable to work. We moved back to my hometown so that she could be closer to family. I went into a pretty deep state of depression about school and the fact that I had allowed myself to do something as dumb as dropping out. On an absolute whim I drove to a local Technical College to ask what I could do. I was 19 at this point -- to old to go back to High School. I met with an admissions counselor she said I could start school in the fall, but I had to take the GED as soon as I could. The next opportunity to take the GED was in September, approximately a month later. I had to pass or I couldn't stay in school. I passed.

You would think that would have taught me a valuable lesson, but ironically it didn't. I had been a musician my entire life. I started playing guitar at age four. I've known how to play so long I don't even remember learning. As I got older I joined band in school and I had my eyes set to be a HS Band Director, but the local University didn't have a Music major. I couldn't leave my Mom so I transferred from the Tech school to the University after completing a couple of semesters of General Education classes. I flopped around between a few majors and I settled on History: a subject that had been a lifelong interest for me. Aside from music, it was the next most logical choice. In college (as I'm guess so many do) I changed, and not for the better. Two things happened. I developed a problem with Alcohol and through a Music professor I got interested in Computers (using them to Notate/Create music). Shortly, I got interested in the machines themselves and I left school and went full-time into the IT/Computer industry.

All along, my alcohol problem was festering. I no longer did anything but go to work, go home, drink and play video games online. I was a mess. After about a year and a half my drinking problem caught up with me, I came to work hungover, blew up at my supervisor and I walked out and quit.

I was unemployed for about 6 months, and I wound up working at an electronics retailer. I hated it. I did manage to work my way up through the ranks, but I couldn't help but miss the old job, and I had not only tackled my drinking problem and beaten it, I'd grown as a person. I got in touch with the IT Director and by the grace of God I was allowed to come back to work at my current compnay. This was in 2007. During all of this -- at some point during college -- I had walked away from Christ and the Church. I'd completely turned my back on my faith.

Fast forward to last year, 2013. It was a horrible year in a lot of ways, except for this one thing. My neighbor kept bugging me to go to a July 4th celebration at a small country church just down the road. I resisted with all my might and came up with every excuse I could think of. Nothing was enough and I went down to this event. As I was sitting there, listening to a youth pastor from another church speak, I felt my heart change, sitting right there in that field. I will always remember the moment I was converted.

My friend, and boss had always been asking me to go to his church. He knew I'd hit it off with the pastor -- he was an ex-IT guy/Programmer also. I decided to visit the next Sunday. Not only have I joined that church, that Pastor has not only become my pastor but one of my best friends. I have since rededicated my life to Christ, been re-baptized and sometime in September of last year I felt that call again.

Except this time, it was irresistible. I hadn't read an entire book since college. Since September 2013, I've read the Bible cover to cover tree times, in three translations. I spend much time in the Word every day now. Not only that, I can't keep track of all the books I've read since then -- everything I can get my hands on, I read. I have an insatiable hunger to learn, and teach. I am thankful that my pastor has given me the opportunity to teach several times at Wednesday night Bible study at our church. It's been a great experience. I look forward to any chance I get to dig into God's Word and share with others.

I know I have been led to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I knew that was where the Lord was leading me. I prayed every day for God to show me me a way, any way to make going to SEBTS a reality.

I have to say, I have been blown away by the kindness of everyone I have interacted with from Southeastern. I have been blessed and helped immensely by several staff members. I was devastated when  I discovered I couldn't get student loans, but the school jumped into action and helped me get financial aid. It still hasn't fully sunk in that I will be there next week! I am truly as excited as I have ever been in my life. I finally feel like I know where I belong, and what I should be doing.

This leads to the second part of my blessing. The company I work for, ACS Technologies. At 34, with a job, a house and a dependent parent, it was hard to make a decision to do something this life changing.

Luckily, like Southeastern, ACS Technologies is a Great Commission company. Just check out this tweet from my account back in March at our annual company meeting:

I am truly blessed to be part of the ACS Technologies family. They are allowing me to follow my calling, and continue my work even while in Wake Forest studying. This is really small potatoes compared to some things I've seen this company do. It's an extended family, it really is.

I don't care what kind of need arises, or what tragedy happens ACST employees rally together to help each other. I can't count the number of bake sales, chili lunches, hot dog lunches and other fundraisers that have happened seemingly on the spur of the moment when a need arises with an ACST employee. I am so thankful to work for a company with the same values I have. A company where I am a person, and not just an employee number.

I am so thankful for this opportunity that has been given to me by both ACS Technologies and SEBTS. I am proud to be a part of the ACST family, and I am proud to say I Am Going to SEBTS!

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

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