God spoke to Jonah and told him, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). The people that lived in that city were very sinful, and they were Gentiles. Jonah’s response to God’s command, “But Jonah arose to flee…” (v3). Most know what happened. Jonah boarded a ship to sail away and due to his disobedience, ended up in the belly of a great fish. It returned him to land once he repented to fulfill his call.
I had my own metaphorical belly of the great fish experience. God put me in a place where I was quite isolated in my life. My job had me working full time during the night shift and was pure stress, and I only had off Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I went to college full time as well, and I was not around a lot of friends during this period. It was a harsh environment where I was attempting to go my own way in life and not obey the call of God.
This is where I finished reading through the Bible for the first time. I came to a critical crossroad in my life. I had to make the decision to follow Christ with everything I had in me. I had to make the decision to serve Him fully with my life in everything. Or I would go my own way in sin and disobedience. The intensity of God’s powerful drawing in my heart crushed me. I had only one choice. Like Jonah, I feel I repented and was vomited out onto dry land.
The decision to do what was right and obey God completely revolutionized my life. I was growing in my faith through the Word, God changed my heart, and I was transformed from the inside out. Those were some amazing nights as the Holy Spirit illuminated His truth and opened my eyes. And this all happened while I was on my own. I had no church, no church family, and no mentor to help me outside of the Holy Spirit.
The change that happened in my life was difficult on my friends and some of my family members. I became a very different person, and as anyone who has been transformed knows, it was not easy. I experienced a variety of reactions, and I made a stand for what I was becoming. I even experienced some mild persecution, which I was not expecting.
At this time, I began looking for a church for the first time as an adult. I visited several places, but I was unable to find anyone in my age group. I was saddened and stunned that there were so few people in their early twenties who loved the Lord from what I had experienced up to that point. I stopped by a church once close to my house and asked a fellow if he knew of anywhere that had a group of people my age.
He mentioned one church he knew of about thirty minutes away. I went the next Sunday. It was amazing. There was a moderate size group of young people in my age bracket, and I was exposed to contemporary worship for the first time. I attended on and off with my job the way it was working nights.
About a year later, the Lord blessed me with a regular Monday through Friday day job. My being vomited on to dry land experience brought me to a point where I could actually be part of a church for the first time. I was very happy, and I started attending as many activities as I could.
Many things happened from the time I was 18 to 25 in my life spiritually. Of course, I started growing in my walk, and God also blessed me in many ways. I didn’t have any money for college, and God provided. He blessed me with funds for a new vehicle which I needed. He led me to a place to worship with people my age. He blessed me with spiritual dreams, and I experienced some things spiritually that would terrify people. Also, I was witness to a real, actual miraculous healing. A woman was healed of an issue, and she has never experienced that issue again. Even to this day, twelve years later. Jesus was with me through it all. He led me out of sin, and into a new life.
At this period, at my new church, I decided that I wanted to be baptized again as an adult. I was twenty-three. I had been baptized when I was four, but I thought it would be good to be baptized as an adult as well. Therefore, I was baptized, and I was very happy that I could do it with my fellow believers as witness. For me, it was a very special evening.
I wanted to work in ministry in my life, and I decided it would be good to get a Biblical education as well as a University education. I prayed for a school to attend and God opened a door to a small Christian college at a church that was affiliated with a larger college out-of-state. God also provided financially for that as well. I will be forever grateful to those God used to bless me in such a manner.
Also, God led me to begin training in martial arts. I was very introverted, shy, and timid. He used my martial arts training to bring me out of my shell and help me to be more of a man. He was training me spiritually, mentally, and physically. He gave me the strength to work full time, train full time, go to school full time, and survive until I graduated from everything. At one point, I did not take any summer breaks or anything for over two years. The hammer struck, the sparks flew, and when the first phase of the process was completed, I turned twenty-five.
During this period, I was also praying heavily for a wife. I needed a partner in my life, and I had a deep need in my heart for a beautiful, spiritual woman. I couldn’t seem to find an ideal woman anywhere in my life, and I remember praying that God would simply bring her to church. I even prayed for some specific things. On a Wednesday night in February 1998, God brought her to church. She was everything I prayed for. We were friends for about four months, then we were a couple for two years. Finally, my wife and I married after I graduated from my schools with my under graduate degrees in literature, history, and theology. Also, I completed the initial phase of my martial arts training process. We had left the church where we met, and had found a new church.
I needed a good church to attend. My first church had some issues, and I needed to find a different place to be. Therefore we changed churches. The second church had even more issues than the first. Thankfully, God had a church in mind for us. Like everything else, the third church was an answer to prayer to in so many ways. It is humorous how I found it.
I would wake up everyday a little after 9 to go to work. My alarm was set on a channel where they had Christian music and teaching. I would wake up listening to this fellow on the radio. This went on for around a year, but I never heard the end of the show. I remember praying as well, that I wish I could find a church where the Bible was taught like the man on the radio taught. Turns out, he was in Houston, and the church had every specific thing I had prayed for.
I had gotten in my car earlier than normal one day and turned on the radio to listen. I caught the end of this show I had been listening to just about everyday and they gave the name of the church. It was only twenty-five minutes or so from my house. We were there the next Sunday, and would spend the next five years there. We were married in the church, and our son was dedicated in the church two years later.
Unfortunately, I did not have a father in my life much, as my parents had been divorced when I was two. My father did not fulfill the role of a spiritual mentor, and I really desired to have a Godly man to teach me. So, I was praying for one. There were a number of godly men who taught me a lot, and I see now, that Jesus was my real mentor. He fulfilled that fully and without limit. He still is.
At the end of our five years at this church, the second phase of God’s training for me was completed. I was ordained as a pastor and sent out to start a new church. We left Houston and moved to the Tulsa area in 2004.