Editors note: want to know something about me, here are the answers to 3 questions Wheaton College wanted answers to.
1) Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior? If yes, concisely describe the beginning and development of your faith and its impact in your life?
I may be at risk of turning in my evangelical card for saying this, but more and more the term ‘personal savior’ seems too shallow a term. Am I in relationship with Christ? Yes. Am I in relationship with His bride, the Church? Yes. Do I believe strongly and passionately in the orthodox doctrines set forth by the early church fathers? Yes. Do I believe that Christ’s atoning death on the cross has wiped clean the sinful shame and decadence of my very existence? Positively. Do I believe that the power that rose Christ from the dead dwells in me; molding and shaping me into His image and likeness? Absolutely.
The work of my Father, of Christ and of His Holy Spirit in my life has been nothing short of amazing. My initial discernment of His great love for me came on a cold November night in 1980. I was 5 years old (almost 6), and my parents as a special treat had taken me to a play called ‘The Witness.’ It was the story of Christ told from John’s perspective. I was enthralled as I had never witnessed such a site (way better than movie Lady and the Tramp which my parents had recently taken me to see, and afterwards promised never to take me to another movie because I went into convulsions of agony when Tramp was run over). Afterwards John the Apostle, well the actor playing him anyway, told us that the very God whose story we had just seen wanted to have a relationship with us. This was too good of an offer to pass up, so I talked my Dad into walking up front with me where John prayed for me to enter into the Kingdom.
Since that day I have tweaked more than one Roman Catholic’s sense of decorum by remarking that they may be a descendant of Peter’s apostleship, but I am more of John man.All internecine kidding aside, I have spent a lifetime trying to grow in the grace and love of God, and John continues to be a role model for the type of life I hope to lead. I can think of no higher compliment than to hear my Lord call me the disciple whom He loves. Being an evangelical-charismatic Christian in a public high school in the heart of Southern Baptist territory was no picnic. To the pagans I was a Jesus freak, and to the Baptists I was just a freak who was most definitely involved in some form of non-Baptist heresy. Through it all I have tried to love God, and serve His church in a manner befitting my high calling. To answer the question plainly, “Is Christ my personal savior?” I would have to say, “Yes, but he is so much more.” He is the reason that I rise in the morning, the reason that moves me through my day, and the very reason I can sleep well at night.
2) What are your personal / professional goals? How would coming to Wheaton help you accomplish them?
The whole Openness of God controversy broke right as I was walking across the stage to accept my Masters of Divinity from Samford University. The transitional period that occurred right after that moment distracted me from following much of the ensuing debate. However, as I begin to settle into my new position in the church, new city of residence, and even newer station of life, I begin to pick back up the old copies of First Things, and several books that friends had mentioned to me. One of these books was Beyond the Bounds edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. As one who has always leaned more to Wesley than Calvin, I have never been an avid reader of Piper, however, I have been a fan of Grudem (both of us have toiled in the Vineyard for a decent amount of time), so I picked the book up with some hope, but not so much enthusiasm. Immediately I wrapped myself in the ends and outs of this “new” controversy. After picking through the essays for weeks, I came to Grudem’s final essay. In it He posited his hope for the future, his assessment of how the controversy had started and why it had caught steam in mainline circles (a more recent example of this occurrence has been in the whole DaVinci Code imbroglio). As he discussed these trends in modern church life, he issued a call for the younger generations of the Church to return to more classically Irish-Christian structure, where the theologian lives not in the ivory tower of academia (an unfortunate compunction of modern Protestant ‘liberal’ scholars), nor in the gilded isolation of monasticism (a situation similar to the isolationism of many modern evangelicals). No the theologian is to be called to a live of residency both in the world and in the church, not isolating himself or herself from either culture.
This call resonated with me. All my life I have felt a kinship to the world of academia. I have loved the thrill of discovering some new text buried in the back of a library. I have loved the high that comes from submitting and defending a position paper before one’s peers. Yet, I have also loved the Church and what it means to be the Church. I have loved rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and visiting those imprisoned. Up to this point, I had always heard people separate the two. Choose a side you are either with the high and mighty liberals at that college, or you are with us in the trenches. In his essay, Grudem implied that I could do both, no he implored me to be both. That it what I seek- to be a theologian-in-residence. Through Wheaton I hope to obtain the skills, and recognition I need to be a theologian, all the while remaining firmly in residence in the local church.
3) Briefly describe an experience you have had during the last year and tell how it has affected your personal growth?
I was recently shopping in Wal-Mart when I found a shirt that I really like. It has an image of the cartoon character Popeye and it reads “Strong to the Finish.” I really like that motto taken from the theme of the cartoon show. Strong to the finish. An important concept illustrated all around us. I love watching the Olympics, especially swimming and gymnastics. You see it there in Micheal, how many times did the other swimmers jump out to early leads but Micheal was strong to the finish and won 8 medals. You saw it in the Romanian gymnastic team, the Americans were favored but the Romanians were strong to the finish and took the gold. I recently watched the mini-series Band of Brothers about Company C of the 101st Airborne, who were involved in every major battle from D-Day to Eagle’s Nest outside Berlin. They were strong to the finish and because they were, the world is free from the horrors of the Nazis.
Needless to say, I bought the shirt, and wore it with pride; because, I cannot help but feel that today, we need more Popeyes. We need people who are strong to the finish. Whether it be people who can fight through the adversity of Hurricane Katrina or the pain of day-to day life, we need Popeyes. Whether it be people who will serve God to the very end, or people who are willing to give up their lives in pursuit of the advancing Kingdom of God, we need more Popeyes.
The silly, stupid slogan on that shirt has haunted me as I have been in this recent period of transition. In those words I am remained of Paul’s words to Timothy from his jail cell,
“Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.… But you–keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant. You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way.”
As I run the race, my God has for me, I am reminded by the words of Paul, and his later-day disciple, Popeye, to “be strong to the finish.” Run hard and run long, finish the course, and hear his words, “well done.”