I was raised in a Christian home with both my parents being born-again, washed in the blood, saved by grace through faith Christians.
Those parents took us (themselves, my sister, and I as my brother was not yet born or even considered by them. See I Close My Eyes for background on that.) from a church where the pastor was more concerned about elevating and justifying himself than he was about helping the church body to grow in their knowledge of and faith in God to a church that taught hard-core theology. The accounts in the Bible – Old and New Testaments – were taught as early as in the nursery. By the time you got to high school youth group or the adult classes, you were onto in-depth learning about not only how the lessons and teachings in the Bible apply to our daily lives but also information to supplement those lessons and teachings such as the history behind the book of John, what was happening in the world at the time the book of Romans was being written, what is the difference in the original Greek words that translates to the same word in English, etc.
Soon, it was time to start school. Due to….loose morals at the local public school, my parents felt led to put me into a Christian school ran as a business ministry of our church. (That’s a whole other post – one which does not necessarily need to be published…) At that school, our teachers emphasized they were supplementing what our parents taught us at home, not taking their place. In order to graduate or pass each grade, you had to take a semester of Bible for every semester you attended. Elementary, it was looking at the lives of missionaries – recorded in the Bible and those of our time – in addition to the teachings of the Bible. Salvation was always taught as was creation and the accounts of the lives of people in the Bible. Rather than simply reciting those accounts, they were built upon every year. Example: in kindergarten, we learned the days of creation. We had plates that we glued/colored pictures of the different created subjects and learned a rhyme. By the time we got to senior year, we were talking about how God was able to create something out of nothing; what does it mean that God is omnipotent? How is He self-sufficient? Looking more at Who the Creator Is – not just what He created when (that was in science as we looked at how the order of creation was perfect for the sustainability of life.).
We had chapel once a week. In elementary, it was usually the teachers rotating through with the occasional special speaker (local pastor or a missionary home on furlough). In high school though, it was either our Bible teacher or a pastor/missionary – including the presidents and vice-presidents of local mission agencies – who taught chapel. It was always frustrating to myself and fellow students who went to the same church when we had youth pastors from other churches speak. Some of us may have referred to their lessons at the character lessons we had back in elementary school. On the flip side, our peers who went to those other churches hated when our youth pastor taught because they were not used to so much hard-core, in-depth theology being thrown at them in such a short amount of time.
Flash forward a few years. Our pastor was called to his heavenly home. That amazing youth pastor was called to be a senior pastor at a different church a forever long drive away. Due to other events, again, that would be a whole different post, I found myself without a church to call home.
My parents moved back to their home church now that there was a new pastor in place. I began attending that church with them. Where to start???
It is a church where you will hear the Biblical gospel preached. It is a church where the members love God. When my grandpa died, the message preached was so passionate and Biblically sound that I actually forgot I was sitting 5 feet away from the body of my grandpa. The people are sincere.
That being said, it’s not my home church. I believe I have already posted about the worship there – if not I will another time.
The sermons are similar to those chapel sessions when we had pastors from other churches speak. They apply lessons to your person without any additional information such as what the Greek or Hebrew word is and how that ties into the context of other words used. It’s essentially taking what the passage says and saying, “ok, this is how this verse applies to your life in this situation.”
It is teaching of the word of God which is a powerful tool used in conviction. I have learned through these sermons, but I am almost always left wanting more, not feeling satisfied or full. I often go home and pull-up a podcast of a sermon of my former youth pastor in his new church to get that in-depth lesson.
I have tried explaining this to my parents, that I feel as though I went from milk (like an infant) to steak and now I’m back down to a hamburger. There’s nothing wrong with a hamburger. I like hamburgers, but they’re not as satisfying or filling as a 16oz steak. That did not go over well. I probably could have worded it a bit better especially as they are both satisfied there. I’ve also pointed out that my learning style is different than both of theirs…but I think that was mentioned at the same time as the hamburger thing, and the subject was needing to be changed before all our blood pressures sky-rocketed.
What prompted this post tonight? I just finished reading and am already planning on re-reading an incredibly book titled Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by (recently called home to heaven much to my dismay) Nabeel Qureshi. I plan on buying the rest of his books (I actually planned on begging local pastors to invite him to come speak, but that won’t happen now!) as this one was so, so well written!
He begins by recollecting and telling the story of his Muslim upbringing. The reader can appreciate his love for his family and his culture while beginning to see the questionable aspects of the Islamic belief system. He transitions smoothly into when he began to realize that what he had been taught literally since moments after his birth may not be correct.
God truly did send him the right person to befriend him and guide him along the journey to salvation. As I was reading, I was in awe of how knowledgeable his friend was. I thought being raised by godly parents in addition to 13 years in a Christian school in addition to a solid, Bible-preaching church would have prepared me to answer some of the questions resulting from comparison of the Quran and the Bible. Nope. I recognized the conflict and the responding verses, but I could not put them together. At one point, I wondered if his friend, David, got home from those discussions sometimes and just sank to the floor thanking God for putting the thoughts in his head and the words in his mouth. I’ve had those moments myself after in-depth conversations with friends and co-workers when I was half asleep and usually not able to process light conversation let alone theology.
All the while I was reading this book, I was thinking about the Muslims with whom I am acquainted. Would these topics come up? I began praying that God would open the door for me to witness to those acquaintances, and that He would put the appropriate responses on my brain, heart, and tongue. At that point, I realized that while yes, I have been completing Bible studies, I have been neglectful in studying the Bible. I have fallen into the habit of thinking, “what does this passage mean for me” without adding, “what does this passage teach me about God? How does strengthen my faith? How would I explain this passage to an unbeliever?”
As I told one of my mentors, reading through this book showed me where in my Biblical studies I need to spend more time to strengthen.
I have always been awful with remembering the references for verses. I can remember math equations and formulas, random and important dates throughout history, but those chapters and verses get confused in my head. When my youth group was preparing for what was my first missions trip, we were given “random” verses as well as Galations 6 to memorize. Myself and one of my friends were the only two to memorize Galations 6 in addition to those other select verses. To this day, if I hear someone quote a verse out of Galations 6, I may not be able to say which verse it is, but I know that it comes from that book and chapter!
There are not a lot of verses that I can point to and recall when I memorized it or first felt its importance. 1 Peter 3:15 was one of those seemingly random verses we memorized for that first missions trip. I remember it. I actually recognize the reference for that verse. I remember reading through it several times, just because of the strength of the challenge, maybe command, maybe advice of that that verse. 1 Peter 3:15 was referenced in Qureshi’s book. I immediately had to close the book, pause, and then slowly grin as I again resolved to up the intensity of my Bible studies and not be ok with what, to me, are sometimeshamburger sermons. (Note: those sermons may be steak to other believes; we are all at different points in our relationship with God. It may be that those sermons are buffalo burgers to someone and just what they need in their life in their present situation. As I said, I have still been convicted and/or taught during most of those sermons!)
As I flipped to that verse to include it in this post, I got another chuckle. It is surrounded by notes in my Bible including a reminder to not be a know-it-all and our faith is not a blind faith, accepting of what is being taught from the pulpit purely because it is taught from the pulpit. We are to know the reasons or the logic of what we believe.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. . . ” 1 Peter 3:15