A Personal Story of Grace and Faith
I was born in Hollywood, California, where early on I mixed with a memorable assortment of people from the film industry (although none ever offered me a script!).
Before my teens, we relocated as a family to North San Diego County. The allurements of the ocean were quickly chiseled into my soul. I became a devotee of beach culture, and loved riding the waves.
After a few misadventures in my personal life, the Lord Jesus Christ exacted a call on my life and I couldn’t resist. I repented of my sins and was drawn into the Lord’s loving embrace, and I asked him to help me to serve him with my whole life for the rest of my life.
I imagined my future to be as a Christian lawyer but the dream was not to materialize. In the most dramatic reversal of my young Christian life, a sovereign God led me away from law and into a field I had resolved to avoid at all costs, vocational ministry as a pastor. When I knocked on my dad’s office door to reveal the change of heart, imagining that he might be somewhat disappointed, instead I faced a man who, with tears in his eyes, responded with the quiet affirmation: ‘I always knew it!’
By the time I matriculated at Dallas Seminary to train as a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was probably the most enthusiastic entering student. Seminary elicited more questions than answers – not because of deficiencies in the classroom but because of the profundities of God’s word – and prompted a life-long quest to plumb the spiritual truths at the center of universe. It drove me to pursue doctoral research at the University of Cambridge.
But there was a delay. Her name was Lesli, and she was beyond question the most beautiful example of humanity I had ever encountered. Radiant inside and out, with a deep and infectious love for Jesus Christ, she was the partner with whom I wanted to traverse life’s peaks and valleys – and remarkably she agreed, consenting to be my wife. Since Lesli was a year shy of a university degree in Nursing, I strapped on a lather’s belt and endeavored – not without a few injuries to my fingers – to work her through school before moving to England.
Our six years in Cambridge were magical – a time of exhilarating scholarship, new and close friendships, a Spirit-fired church, and a peerless library (Tyndale House). After the degree, I was invited to serve as assistant pastor at Eden Baptist Chapel, our church in Cambridge, which made returning to America, two years later, a heart-wrenching farewell.
With an English-born baby, Matthew, in tow, and another son, Jonathan, on the way, we landed States-side in Paradise Valley (a suburb of Phoenix), Arizona, at a church called Camelback Bible Church, where I became senior pastor. By the goodness of God, we linked hearts with this loving church family, watching spiritual brothers and sisters transformed by Christ and venture out for Christ to proclaim Christ in their respective spheres. How we cherished our twenty-seven years with the Christ-filled people of Camelback.
During this time, Matt earned All-American honors as a golfer at Stanford University and helped his team to win the 2007 NCAA Division I National Championship. He then enrolled in the University of Chicago for an MBA, and now works with Accenture in Chicago as a business consultant. He is married to Gina, a beautiful woman of God.
Jon finished his masters studies in England, at Kings College London, where he focused on the literary figure Samuel Johnson and his late-in-life conversion to Christ, and at the University of Cambridge, where he concentrated on biblical studies, especially the writings of Paul. Jon now works in ministry at Christian Heritage in Cambridge.
Lesli and I love serving among pastors and church leaders in eastern Europe. We are encouraged by these special people of faith, who labor for Christ under often intense ostracism. Many of these pastors are in the process of establishing The Gospel Coalition in their regions. Praise the Lord!