My friend Josh Howerton and I got into a discussion on Twitter and decided to list the 10 things that have most altered our lives (I only whittled it down to 12). This was fun to think about so I thought I would share.
**Disclaimer: Becoming a christian, being called to the ministry, and becoming family men were a given**
Without further ado, here are the 10 things that have most altered my life and made me who I am today.
1) My Parents Divorce.
I don’t mean that in a sappy, pity party kind of way. When my parents divorced while I was 14 and in the ninth grade it altered several things. First, it was the primary avenue God used to save me. Second, it forced me to live significantly more independently while in High School than I would have had to. Third, It helped me grow up and mature quickly. Fourth, it was really the first time suffering had come into my life. Many of those things overlap and feed into one another, but I think they are all worth sharing. It has been a constant reminder for me: God uses awful situations for my good and my sanctification.
2) Meeting Josh Howerton.
Very few people know our history, but we have known each other for coming up on 10 years (I think). No human being has shaped me, believed in me, invested in me, and been a better friend to me than Josh. He has been the guy that I consistently get very honest and vulnerable with. He has heard my sin and responded with grace to me for years. He affirmed my calling to the ministry, helped guide me to Boyce College, and was willing to hire me as an Associate Pastor. I could go on here, for a long time, but suffice it to say he has easily had the largest impact on my life of any human being. I literally do not have any idea what my life would look like if God, in his providence, had chosen not to cross our paths and establish our friendship.
3) Watching My Mom Suffer Well.
After my parents divorce my mom suffered. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was 14 and I just remember always thinking, “This is what real sadness looks like.” She was depressed, she cried a lot, my two brothers and I were of no help to her… In fact, we added to the suffering. She worked two jobs while raising three teenage sons. I do not remember hearing her complain about hardly anything. I do remember her bending herself over backwards to make sure she was putting us boys, her friends, and other things that came in her path before herself. It was beautiful. My mom suffered well and it forever changed me. Thank you, mom.
For those that don’t know my mom: she is the strongest woman I have ever met, God has done a great work in her life, and that tough season passed a long time ago. 🙂
One small way I think this altered/changed me is this: I have always loved people and been more relational than most. This comes from 1) the way God made me 2) the work of the gospel in my life 3) watching my mom suffer grew a deep compassion for people in my heart and I truly believe it has grown my capacity to really love people.
4) The Book of Hebrews
This book of the Bible has done incredible things for me. Obviously, I could have just put “The Bible,” but that is too easy and not parts of the Bible have altered my life equally. The book of Hebrews, for me, stands above the rest. Hebrews showed me the glory and supremacy of Jesus more than any other book. It is the perfect example of applying incredibly rich theology to the heart and life. It gave me a theology of suffering, it showed me how Jesus truly is the center of the whole Bible, and chapters 10-13 challenged me greatly to live a radical life for Jesus.
5) Cleaning Up The “Messy Rooms” in My Marriage
You know that one messy room in your house that never gets touched? My marriage had two of them. We left them untouched for years. Well, thankfully they are not untouched anymore. My wife and I went through the painful and hard process of opening those doors, diving in, and cleaned them up. It was not easy or enjoyable… at first. Now, my marriage and my home in general feel night and day different. The aroma of our house is much sweeter than it used to be and there has been a tangible difference in the way my wife love and relate to one another.
6) Coming To Serve As Pastor at The Bridge Church
I turned down two full time pastor positions before I came, and I was extremely close to planting a church. I wrote a 13 page vision document, had people offer financial funding, and people offer to join me in the venture. I really thought it was going to happen. But, God stepped in, big time, and brought me to The Bridge instead. I was literally 4 days away from choosing to plant my life in Kearney, NE for the long haul. So yes, it radically altered the direction of my life.
7) My Friendship With Craig McKown.
Craig is my co-pastor and dear friend. I met him when I got to The Bridge and the role he has played in my life over the last 3 1/2 years cannot be overstated. He has helped stretch me and forced me to grow in ways I never thought I would. He was a rock for me in one of the most difficult years of my life. Craig and I came from pretty different church backgrounds and that has been monumental in my growth as a pastor. Craig has simply altered the type of pastor I am in a very positive way and his friendship to me means even more.
Side Note: the fact that I get to work with my two dearest friends every day is one of THE greatest blessings in my life.
8) The Gospel Centered Movement
The gospel is meant to be the center of our lives and our churches. Re-establishing that is at the heart of the “gospel-centered movement.” For me, it got me to think more wholly, more biblically about what the gospel is and how it changes me and others. This has greatly altered how I view sanctification and how I practice holiness. It also altered how I counsel, give guidance, deal with with sin in others, etc. It has had a major impact on both me and my ministry.
9) Reading According To Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy
This has been the most significant book in my life outside of the Bible. Primarily because it made sense of the Bible for me. It should me the continuity between the Old and New Testament. It showed me how the Bible truly does have one theme woven throughout all of its pages. It helped teach me how to read, understand, and teach the Bible. It showed me how Jesus was the hero of every story in the Bible. It gave me a great passion for the Bible. My love and esteem for the Bible is in large part from the impact According To Plan had on me. It altered a lot.
10) Bible College.
I went to Boyce College to learn the Bible and become a pastor. It altered my life primarily by growing my love the Lord more than any other period of time in my life. It gave me a desire to study. It gave me some phenomenal relationships that I will always cherish.
11) Hearing Rob Turner Preach in the Summer of 2004
I heard Rob Turner preach a year after I had been a Christian at church camp. It was the first time I had ever heard powerful preaching. It gave me a new picture of pastoral ministry, the power that can takes place through the ministry of the Word, and really helped grow my desire to be a pastor and teach the Bible. I will never preach like Rob, I don’t need to. I simply need to actually believe God can change people through His Word and preach like I actually believe that. I am forever grateful for you faithful ministry, Rob.
12) Reading “An Unstoppable Force” by Erwin McManus
I wouldn’t even recommend this book to everyone. But man, God sure used it to alter my life for the better. It did this in two ways primarily: it gave me a passion for the church and a belief that God really can change the world through his bride. Those two things established a desire in my heart early on to “pour myself our live a drink offering for the sake of the elect.”