I was raised in an active Christian family. I accepted Jesus at the age of 7 as my Savior. My parents divorced soon after and I was intermittently attending for the next few years. Around eleven, church became an active part of my life again. As I entered the youth department of my church, I was first pushed to embrace the concept of being a disciple of Jesus. During my teen years, I grew in my knowledge about Christ and of the Bible.
However, most of the impact of those years was in my head, and not in my heart. Like many, I fell away from my commitment to Jesus during my college years. When my bride and I got married, I knew that my family needed to be in church, so we began attending again. But still, what was in my head never truly conquered my heart.
After about 7 years, our marriage was in shambles. We got to the point that we were separated, had divorce attorney's, and were steeling ourselves for life apart. But God had other plans. Our youngest was born during this time, and it was her that God used to reconcile our marriage. We almost lost her at six weeks old. Her medical emergencies all seemed to happen at the times when we could have parted. But we kept being thrown together in waiting rooms and kept falling into each other's arms to get through.
During this time, my bride had thrown herself completely at the foot of the cross. It seemed that she had her nose in the Word or had her knees bent every time I saw her. She had a peace that I didn't.
Frustrated that nothing seemed to be satisfying me, I turned back to church. I called a friend from our Sunday School class that had been inviting me to a evening Bible study and inquired if they were still meeting. He told me that they were not, but a new group was in the works. He asked me if I could meet in the mornings, and told me that another friend, the class teacher, was going to be in the group as well. The study was going to be in Psalm 119, and would last 22 weeks. I had no idea how you could study ANY book of the Bible for 22 weeks, much less a Psalm! But I knew the other men to be Godly men that were happy in their lives and marriages, so I was willing to give it a try.
The first day that we met, I walked into the church offices at the appropriate time to find my two friends...and the pastor. I certainly didn't dislike him, but for a moment I felt like I'd been tricked...and almost walked back out. But I overcame that urge and remained. Each week, we took a stanza of 8 verses and tore it apart. The writer of the study ran us through every book of the Bible as we studied that Psalm. As the weeks went on, I found myself with at least 3 different translations spread out as I picked through the verses and the questions. And before long, I was completely and totally in love with God's Word. My bride got me a parallel Bible to help me study easier. I discovered Strong's Concordance, Bible software, and many other aids to my study. Instead of being a drudgery, I became impassioned to study the Word and found that it was indeed "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." A flame was lit in my spirit as the Holy Spirit began remaking me into the image of Jesus. I began focusing on MY failures instead of my bride's. I began trying to love her, instead of responding only as I saw her moving towards me. Our marriage began to be happy as we sought to honor God together for the first time.
The pastor wanted us to grow the impact that the four of us had experienced, so we called the men of the church together and my friends and I shared our testimonies of small group study of the Bible. At the end of our sharing, we gave the opportunity for the men to join us in our next study, the book of Genesis. We had 55 men sign up to meet at various times throughout the week. And even though I felt myself completely inadequate, I found myself teaching a class. During the 28 weeks of the study, the men in my group lamented that most of the other men in the church were inactive. There was an active women's ministry, but absolutely nothing for the men. They wanted to begin a men's ministry, and I wound up as the leader of our little foray.
During this time, I was trying to memorize Scripture like never before. I read the Bible front to back and wrote down the verses that spoke to me. I kept hearing men talk about their "life verse": the verse that the Holy Spirit gave to them as the definition of their life, the passion of their calling, or the hope of the Gospel. I was reading through Ezra and when I got to the tenth verse of the seventh chapter, I KNEW that I had found MY life verse. Ezra 7:10 reads "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." I realized that Ezra did four things: he prepared, he studied, he practiced, and THEN he taught. That's the Biblical basis for discipleship.
As God continued to work in my life, I gained a burning passion to reach the other men in our church, our neighborhood and our town with the Gospel of Jesus. To get them past the Milquetoast conceptions of Jesus as a pansy. To get them to see that He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. King Arthur, Robin Hood, George Washington, Paul Revere, and every other hero of the world all balled up into One. And that's what Ezra did as Nehemiah restored Jerusalem.
So I became passionate about discipleship. Not Biblical knowledge, not knowledge ABOUT God, but imitating Jesus in every aspect of our lives as men: prophets, priests and kings of our families. I believe that my spiritual gifts are prophecy and teaching. So as a modern day Ezra, I try to proclaim the Truth as a prophet, and to teach men to accurately imitate Jesus.
Prepare, Study, Practice, Teach