Know your Apologist: Joey E Ploof

     Am I an Apologist? I don’t have a degree in Apologetics. Or Philosophy. Or History. Or any of the sciences. Or any other subject. Who am I to call myself an Apologist? A lot of people would say I shouldn’t, that I have no right. Most days there’s a voice in my head that says they’re right.
    Until a couple of years ago, maybe even one year ago, I would never have used the term to describe myself. I had never considered anything like a ministerial calling to be in the cards for me. I grew up thinking that some sort of job as a laborer or manager was where I would end up.
    I was born in August of 1980. My parents were very young and I was their first. If not for the closeness of my mother’s family, living almost all on one hilltop in Dallas, Georgia, I’m not sure the tumultuous times we experienced wouldn’t have broken all of us.
We were close to my grandparents and great grandparents, and though none of us had quite achieved middle class status, that hilltop was an idyllic place to grow up. My mother worked a lot to support us and no matter what was happening to us or around us she always, ALWAYS talked to us about how we were being blessed in spite of our circumstance. We saw real miracles happen in our lives. We were happy.
    I remember my grandmother (“Nanny” to me) telling me a story a few times about having played with and broken her sister’s nice pearl necklace when they were young. She gathered the pieces, knelt over them, and prayed a humble and sincere prayer and when she opened her eyes the necklace was whole again. With this story, she taught me that prayer can be a powerful thing and that no concern is too small for God to concern Himself with. This was a defining moment in my life. When, at ten or eleven years old, I lost the key to the storage area under the house, where the lawnmower was kept, and fearing the anger of my step-father if he found out, I went into the bathroom, knelt, and prayed that key would be in its place when I went back and checked again. I was thinking specifically of my Nanny’s story, and when the key was there, a critical seed of faith was planted deep inside my heart.
    That seed would come to full blossom in a Baptist revival meeting in August of 1993 when I stepped into an aisle, walked (it felt like I floated really) down to an old-fashioned altar, knelt, and prayed desperately for God to forgive my sins and come into my heart. A group of men came immediately and gathered around me and prayed out loud for me. They knew nothing about what I was saying to The Lord in my heart and yet they were crying out to Him for me, some of them were weeping while they prayed. I was weeping while I prayed. Truth is those men and many others had been praying for me for months if not years, praying that I would come to that moment. So some of them, in that moment were praying me through it and some of them were praising Him through it.
    In 2007 I married the most amazing woman. Alicia is everything I’m not. She doesn’t think of herself as outgoing, but compared to me, mushrooms are outgoing. She’s the main thing keeping me in contact with the outside world. She really genuinely cares deeply about everyone she meets. She loves so deeply and gives so much. Not long after we married we began really trying to get pregnant. It seemed to happen pretty easily and before much longer we were going into a doctor’s office to see our little peanut and hear his or her heartbeat. We heard it that first time and were over the moon excited. There is nothing I wanted more than to be “Daddy”. That first miscarriage was devastating. Our hearts were absolutely broken, but our faith never wavered. Our church family and our biological families came around us and loved us so well. When we lost two more, the reactions from our families and friends wasn’t any different but, ours was. We never lost faith that God was there and existed, we never cursed Him, but we began refusing to acknowledge Him. As silly as it may sound I thought I would hurt Him for letting such heartache come into our lives so many times by ignoring Him. We stopped going to church and really disengaged from most of our relationships. I especially withdrew further inside myself and began to question whether this was a God that was worthy of my worship. It was a dark time.
    In February of 2010, Camden was born. He was perfect. Having him didn’t remove our sadness, but it did add a lot of joy. It also added a sense of urgency to my wife’s heart about getting back into relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t terribly interested. Smash cut to 2013 and every argument between Alicia and I for a while had ended with her saying some version of, “…and you never want to try going back to church!” It was true, but this one time I was feeling particularly full of myself and I decided to push back. I told her if she’d pick the church I’d go wherever that coming Sunday. I was sure that no church was going to make a difference in our lives. This post is about where my life and Apologetics intersect, and I’m getting there, but I have to take a moment to explain how finding Freedom Church in Acworth, Georgia did change our lives. This is a church like none other I had ever experienced. By December of 2014, four year old Camden had accepted Christ into his heart on his own. He told his Mommy and I one night at bed time that the previous morning he had gotten up before us, gone to a window in the kitchen, looked out into the sky and asked Jesus to come into his heart. How have I been blessed with these experiences? I don’t know.
    What I do know is this, all of the major experiences in my life involve two factors, God and a community of believers. In those early years my family taught me about the unchanging love of God. In those adolescent and early adult years that old-fashioned Baptist Church taught me about the pursuing love of God. The years where I ignored Him taught me about the enduring love of God. And these most recent years have taught me about the restoring love of God.
    Where does any of this intersect with Apologetics? Thats easy. Most important principles of life are caught, not taught. It was in that pursuing period that I began to hear the messages of Ravi Zacharias on the radio. While I was catching the all-important principles about God’s love for me, I was learning about how to understand how God wanted me to know Him with my mind as well as my heart. And not surprisingly a major theme of Dr. Zacharias’ messages was seeing the truth of God’s love in the community of believers and how God chose to demonstrate it in His very person through the trinity. I think I had an inkling then that this would be the pursuit of my life, but I put it in the category of “hobbies and interests” in my mind. After all, despite having always been told that I could do anything I put my mind to, I was sure I would live a modest average life. Then one day over a year ago I was discussing my faith with an Atheist co-worker of mine and mentioned that if I could have any job in the world it would be one where I study my faith and how to defend it, teach others, and make a difference in the world. He asked me if that didn’t sound a lot like a ministry position and I went from thinking there was no such career to accepting the possibility that this might be the calling that God has for my life.
    So am I an Apologist? How can I call myself that with no education or formal training? Because God called me to be that. I’m no Ravi Zacharias, in fact I wouldn’t put myself in the same category with any other Apologist I’ve ever heard of, but that’s kind of the point. I am just an uneducated hick from Georgia. My Father God is going to use me and others who are even now coming around me to do things that change people’s lives, things none of us can do on our own, things we scarcely imagine we can do even together. So I am an Apologist. I’m a Philosopher. I am a minister in the service of the Most High God.
    My sincere prayer is that this time next year, some of you will be able to call yourself by those very same titles. Because your are all of those things. You are called for a purpose. And we’re going to get there together and set the world on fire with His truth.
Next week, Who Should Be An Apologist? 
Coming at you Wednesday, January 13
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