From the flowing prairie to the ebbing waves; this pastoral intern talks about his gifts and calling.
What is your occupation?
I am a Service Technician at California State University, Long Beach.
Do you have any hobbies?
In Illinois [my home state], it was fixing cars, and enjoying the pleasure of cars. In California, in these times, it’s too expensive, so I am trying a new hobby, surfing.
What is your average day like?
I wake up, spend some time in prayer, go to work, after working at my part time job I come home, eat lunch, study VLI (Vineyard Leadership Institute), set up my small group teaching and other church type activities, eat dinner, more studying, and finally go to bed.
Vineyard Leadership Institute is a two-year seminary (a college that prepares students to be pastors or ministers) program aimed at and catered to those who have jobs, bills to pay, and families. It counts as one official year of seminary, but takes two years to complete. It’s almost like part-time seminary.
Why did you choose to become a Christian?
I was Christian longer than I remember. I was raised in a Christian family. I first started walking with Jesus around 16 years old. Why? Because you know, you are a teenager with a lot of stresses going on like college prep, jobs, and friends. You think things are bad, so you turn to God. In my emptiness and hardship, I turned to God, and He met me there.
It wasn’t easy though. Actually, it was very difficult for the first three years. It was a complete roller coaster. It had a lot of ups and downs. Then after three years, God brought a lot of stability and growth to my life through making Christian friends. In the second year of college, I started to get more Christian friends and I was like, “Whoa, this is what Christian people are like.” I thought they were really dorky. I didn’t trust Christians. Once I saw the value of being around Christian friends, God moving from one place to the next, God always brought me to a higher level. God had me move out to California, for example, the purpose of which I still don’t know yet. God always leads me and provides for me, and here I am.
What are your gifts? Where do you think you are being called in ministry?
I believe something to do with teaching. I am naturally talented in that area. Certainly by the gift and grace of God. Basically teaching or preaching, maybe both. And more recently in the past six months, I have been having a burden for lost people. Somehow reaching out and investing in the lost people who don’t know Jesus. But for right now, more in depth in the area of teaching/preaching and possibly evangelism.
I also have a passion for prayer, healing and prophecy. My first experience of prayer was pretty miraculous in my old church in Southern Illinois, Vine Community Church, at a conference. It actually was really scary. It was my first month going to the church, and I was the first person they called on to get prayed over and had a prophetic word for. Someone told me what God was doing in my life and they were correct. It scared me. I didn’t believe them at first. So I took about eight months to investigate spiritual gifting, especially prophecy. I aligned it with the Bible and felt compelled to understand it and use the gifting. When used correctly, it is very helpful with people getting to know Jesus and receive healing. I had a friend in college that was having a very rough time and I wanted to pray for him. I went to my small group and asked the group to pray for him and to help me be able to pray for him. Ever since then, I have been able to pray for people. I would love to be used, if it’s God’s will, to have a big impact regarding the gift of prayer and having a Jesus-centered focus.
“I would love to be used, if it’s Gods will, to have a big impact regarding the gift of prayer and having a Jesus-centered focus.”
What is your favorite scripture or character of the Bible?
I don’t have any favorite scriptures; I really like the whole Bible. But when I first started walking with God, I liked Jeremiah 29:11 a lot, which is basically “don’t be anxious about anything.” I don’t really have a life scripture, where the person’s whole life is based around that scripture. My favorite character, by far, is Joseph, in Genesis. I really like Joseph’s story because there are many powerful truths illustrated in his story. For example, we can see how someone can do everything right and still have it hard in life. We see how doing the right thing doesn’t always yield positive results. The fact that “the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper” is hard to swallow but it is true many times; Joseph’s story shows us this. However, God is still going to have His way in people’s lives. No one can thwart His ultimate plans. He can even take the bad things that have happened to us (abuse, pain, and other wounds) and use it for good: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
What the hardest thing to discuss, like the most fearful, taboo topic to talk about with non-believers or new believers?
For me, the most difficult topic is to talk about God’s justice. Many people who read the Bible will see God as mean. They see God of the Old Testament as different than God of the New Testament. In trying to explain things in the Bible to people, such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood. People think, “If God is a God of love then why did that happen?” Trying to explain that to those people is a difficult task to do. You are trying to show the overall picture, but they only see things in a small way. They don’t see why God would do that. It’s like a parent with a kid; the parent disciplines the kid but it’s out of love, not wrath.
What do you like and dislike about the Christian faith?
The thing I like most about the Christian faith is love. Love is in many places. Christians look so happy and seem to love each other. The thing I don’t like about Christians is just the opposite. You see a lot of judgment of other people and legalistic behaviors and thoughts.
What would be your encouraging or warning advice for new believers?
A warning is “Welcome to the battlefield!” As a Christian, you will be experiencing the most hardships of your life, with basically a target painted on your back. There is an enemy out there named Satan, who wants to hit that target. Life will be harder—not worse, but harder. You are living in a cosmic battle. An encouragement is God will always love you and not leave you.
Any concluding thoughts?
To the non-believer, no matter where you are in life, God wants to be a part of that through Jesus Christ. Get to know Jesus. Meet Christian friends and ask them for their testimonies. For the Christians, never give up. It’s too easy to stop walking with God, but keep at what you started doing. Give him every part of your life—he wants to be a part of it.