Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Testimony Tuesday

Tim Challies, the pope of blogdom, set forth a proposition that this Tuesday (today) be known as "Testimony Tuesday". With this idea in mind, bloggers around the globe (at least those who visited his site last week) will share their testimony of God’s grace as revealed when He called them to salvation. Therefore, I am following suit today.

I was born at a very young age. OK, not the best way to begin, but true nonetheless. I’m sure that I should say something spiritual here such as the fact that the Lord “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13) but until the last half decade this truth evaded me. Thus, I need not let on that I am more spiritual than I am.

My parents were separated three months prior to my birth and eventually divorced when I was five. If there is such a thing, my mother and father had an excellent “divorced” relationship. The two owned a business together and my father made sure that we were financially provided for. I was loved and not neglected; I never had any doubt of this, but the intimacy between parents and child were lacking – something I never came to realize until the last few years. My father died when I was a senior in high school and a boy who had yet to become a man was left without a father. In some sense, you could say that he was left without a father from the day he was born. I share this not to evoke pity, but to clarify that this has always been a constant source of struggle for me (even to this day) although I may not have recognized it as such earlier.

I grew up “going” to church but I didn’t grow “up in church.” Do you see the distinction? Sure, we wore special clothes on Sunday, attended Sunday school class, and went to the service. We also went to the youth group meetings on Sunday afternoons (until I got older) but I was never truly connected to the body. I can not say that I never heard the gospel. I can say that I never heard the gospel during this time. Thus, I had an apathy towards church body and therefore toward the Church’s Head.

I was a decent student through grade school and was always involved in athletics in some degree. This was the norm until I entered my early teenage years and I discovered extracurricular activities of the non-sporting type which quickly led to my despise for anything associated with physical exertion or mental command. My grades dropped, my demeanor was less than becoming, and the life of this fourteen-year-old eighth grader was falling apart. A year and a half later my mother confronted me with an ultimatum: “I’ll call the police, or I’ll call the military academy. You decide.” I chose the military academy.

Just before I was to begin my new life as a cadet at Missouri Military Academy I traveled with my church’s youth group to Denver, CO in order to attend a Christ in Youth conference. My sole motivation was to go skiing one last time before my life was officially over. I do not remember what was said or who the speaker was (although I have attempted to contact CIY in order to obtain this information to no avail), but I remember sensing the Holy Spirit’s conviction that indeed my life was wrought with sin and I was in need of a Savior. From that day forward, I knew that I had been forgiven because of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, however, I had no concept of what it meant to be a Christian apart from going to church. Thus, within a few weeks I was living in Mexico, MO and this seed had fallen along the path only to be removed by a passerby.

I spent the time spanning between the second half of my freshman year through the end of my junior year at MMA. All the while, it was required that we attend church on Sunday morning, but this did nothing to feed my soul. I was surrounded by 400 kids who were just like me and it was during this time how I perfected the art of hypocrisy. Outwardly I was the model cadet who was earning commendations, accolades, and was the top of my class, but inwardly I was in ruins. I was outwardly such an example that the day I was caught with cigarettes in my possession, no one believed me when I told them that they were mine! Still distanced from my father and increasing in distance from my mother, I knew no truth other than that my life was a lie.

As an ironic twist, one of the best things that ever happened to me was the day that I was asked to leave the academy for “Conduct Unbecoming a Cadet.” This was a wake up call of sorts and my life was laid bare for all to see. This caused my relocation across the country to Dover, Delaware the location of my high school graduation; a location to which I likely will never return. Upon graduation I moved to Rock Hill, SC where I attended Winthrop University for six months. The cares of this world continued to vie for my affections which caused a lackluster grade performance resulting in a 1.692 GPA that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. After a sudden stroke of responsibility, I began working as a Manger in Training with Hibbett Sporting Goods. After living in York, SC for three weeks I was transferred to Charlotte, NC where I found myself nineteen years old and managing a shoe store! I had become Al Bundy with a genY twist.

In February of 2000, I moved to Birmingham, AL accepting a job at Hibbett’s home office to work as a Project Manager for new store construction and remodels. This was the dream job for a twenty-year-old single guy! I traveled every week to every map dot with a Wal-Mart within a twenty-one state area. Have you ever heard of Altus, OK? Norton, VA? Early, TX? or Winnsboro, LA? Neither had I until then. I now had the dream job, but my life was still lacking. I needed a father, and I needed a Father.

In God’s providence, the apartment complex I moved into was directly across the street from what would eventually become my church home. Little did I know, but 18 months after moving to Birmingham I would finally find what I had been looking for all along and I found Him within the truths of His revealed word.

I had been attending Hunter Street Baptist Church off and on over the last year and a half. The church was emphasizing the authority of God’s word and how every Christian needs to present himself as one who has been approved, one who accurately handles the word of truth. (This should be a self-evident truth, but as we know, many of us miss the point all too often on this one.) I neglected my Bible for most of my life with a few spiritual exceptions here and there. It was, however, on November 3, 2001 that I found myself with nothing to do and for whatever reason, sat down to read my Bible. The passage? 1 Chronicles 28 and Malachi 3. Odd places to start, I know…but I believe that God had a plan. Parenthetically, I must be emphatically clear that I do NOT believe in a “devotional theology” where one can simply pick up the Bible and randomly select a passage and expect that to qualify as an encounter with God. True, God speaks through all of His word at all times, but this is hardly to be considered a disciplined method of study and one should not make this a practice. This day, however, was not random as I was relying on a reading plan that the church had produced in order to be sure that the entire church family was reading together.

Here are some selections of what I underlined from these NIV passages (I know, I know…I was SO unspiritual then!):

From 1 Chronicles 28

But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for My Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’” (28:3)

“He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.” (28:6)

“…Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.” (28:8b)

“…If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (28:9b)

“He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service” (28:14) (In the margin next to this verse I wrote “God doesn’t leave out the details.” Awfully astute for this pre-budding theologian!)

“…and He gave me understanding in all the details of His plan.” (28:19b)
From Malachi 3
”See, I will send My messenger who will prepare the way before me…” (3:1a)

“…Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.” (3:3c-4)

“I the LORD do not change…Return to Me, and I will return to you.” (3:6)
And with that, I realized that God was sovereign Lord over all things – including my life. He used the power of His word to confront me with my own sinfulness, present me with His Holiness, and a proposition coupled with a promise: return to Him and He would return to me. That evening our church hosted a 24 hour prayer event to which I invaded about 12:30am. This was the first time that I ever prayed by myself for more than thirty seconds. I do not remember much of what happened after that, but I know that the time went quickly. I remember uttering something similar to “Lord, I don’t quite understand all of this, but you definitely have my attention. Show me the next step and I will follow You.” Well, the next step for me was church membership so I began attending a Sunday school class and meeting as many people as I possibly could. A month later I identified myself with the people called Hunter Street through membership in our church. From that time, the Lord has continued to draw me to Himself even though I have at times been resistant to His irresistible grace.

Three years later, I met the woman who would later become my wife at Hunter Street. We were married on June 4, 2005 and I am now gainfully employed by this very church. Kimberly and I met at Hunter Street, were married, and will continue to minister to the people called Hunter Street and beyond until such a time as the Lord sees fit to move us away from them. I am currently pursuing the educational aspect of my calling into vocational ministry, Lord willing, finishing my undergraduate degree in December and begin seminary in January. We are just getting started…to be continued.

“ I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17 ESV)


Anonymous said...

I LOVE how the LORD makes all things new! It's an incredible encouragement and challenge to be your friend and SEE what God is doing in and through you. DeDe

Anonymous said...

wow! It is incredible how God orchestrates each season of our life to bring us to the next one and how deep and wide His love and mercy are. The Spirit brought you to some powerful Scripture that night. It has been a blessing getting to know you and I pray our friendship will only grow deeper.


KC Armstrong said...

Hey guys, thanks for stopping by and leaving your encouraging words. Kimberly and I are thankful for your friendships as well (corporately and individually).

May His Wonders Never Cease.

Sherry said...

Wow, God never ceases to amaze me. I love the bible verse you used. It seems to sum up my testimony as well. I agree with Jenny, you do need some pics!