Continued from Part 4: ~ Key factors that have shaped who I am and what I believe ~
- Theological-Centricities: Along with the necessity of being God-centered in all of life, I am learning that this is not enough. Christ Jesus and his sacrificial work is the center of the whole Bible and all of history. He gives clarity to the meaning and mysteries of life, such as human suffering, for example. Jesus has met me in some of my darkest days, showing me more of himself and holding fast to me, enabling me to hold fast to him.
- Family Life: My own family background along with the Scriptures has shown me the utter importance of strong spiritual leadership on the part of the father. My father has been a truck driver since I was really little, which has kept him away from home and family for the majority of my life. Aside from being an unbeliever, he has most often defaulted leadership to my mother. My mother worked fulltime during all of my childhood and teen years, leaving my siblings and me to watch over and care for each other (and, try not to burn down the house!). These factors have also pointed me to the need to learn about and strive for Biblical manhood and womanhood (respectively) in my own life, marriage, and family.
- Language: The manner in which we communicate with one another is profoundly important. I am a very analytical thinker. This carries over into how I aim to carefully communicate with others, either in writing or face-to-face. I don’t know how long I have been or thought this way. Perhaps it partially comes from growing up with a father who is generally a silent man, not willing to communicate anything other than superficial subjects such as the weather or truck driving. Thinking before I speak can become both a virtue and a vice for me. As a virtue, it helps me to listen well so that I can respond properly. As a vice, I can often tend to wait too long before I respond, and in effect lose the opportunity to say what should have been said. Jesus’ words, “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” continue to shape and challenge me in all areas of life.
The end, for now…
Q: What key factors in your own life have shaped who you are and what you believe? What’s your personal story of how God has shaped you?
Continued from Part 3: ~ Key factors that have shaped who I am and what I believe ~
- Mission/Evangelism: The manner in which we ourselves come to faith, will deeply affect the way we do mission/evangelism for years. Growing up in the church, I observed the Southern Baptist evangelistic traditions of giving the invitation after the message to walk down the aisle, praying the prayer, “accepting Jesus as Savior,” signing the card, getting baptized, etc. I had “prayed the prayer” many times and was baptized at age thirteen; yet, no fruitful change occurred within me. Being immersed in these such methods did nothing less than damage my “evangelistic” perspective. Early on as a new believer, I would share the Gospel with others, and expect big change in them after they prayed to “receive Christ.” A few years have passed, and I am critically rethinking these and other methods, while also praying for open doors for the Gospel via a more relational approach.
- Engaging Culture: After about a decade of studying theology, I am realizing more and more that despite what some theologians might say about the near irrelevance of culture in relation to the preaching/teaching/spreading of the Gospel, everyone we speak to and share life with is culture-saturated. We eat, drink, breathe, and create culture. So, anyone who wants to be mindful of his or her neighbor (locally and globally) must seek to learn how to engage with and enculturate oneself (in some degree) in that neighbor’s culture for their sake and the Gospel’s. My missions professor began helping me think through these things in his courses on Intro to World Missions and Intercultural Communication.
- Trinity in Perspective: Especially since my Trinitarianism class in Fall ’09, has the infinite and practical importance of the Trinity affected my view of everyday life and church practice. The Triune God who is Being in Communion, has made us in his own image. As his image bearers, we are to reflect him by being in community on mission together for the Gospel of Christ. Other practical implications of the Trinity in everyday life and practice can be manifested in marriage, family, the arts, society, and more. In regards to the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit, I have been in traditions on both sides of the spectrum: Baptist/Presbyterian, where the Holy Spirit is happily acknowledged, yet (often) sorely experienced; and Pentecostal, where the Holy Spirit is supposedly experienced, yet (often) without strong doctrinal backing.
To be cont’d…
Continued from Part 2: ~ Key factors that have shaped who I am and what I believe ~
- Biblical Counseling: In 2003, while a part of PCPC, there were some things surfacing from my past which I had not yet learned to deal with, and were subsequently affecting my relationships. I began to meet with one of our pastors, who was then teacher of our Good Shepherd’s Sunday School class. He counseled me with the Scriptures and a book by Ed Welch, entitled When People are Big and God is Small. This was my initial exposure to true Biblical counseling. Since then, I have continued to profit from such examples of counseling in everyday life from the Scriptures, especially through the ministry of CCEF.
- Desire for Community: Between 2002-2004, I lived with three to four other guys (sometimes varied in number). Within the same apartment complex, lived a few other friends from Criswell College and PCPC. Each Sunday, a group of us would cram into one car and head to the worship gathering. Throughout the week, as well, we would often enjoy times of dinner together, along with a movie, board games, and/or studies. While I did love such times of community, an inner frustration existed, causing me to yearn for something more, and asking what true Biblical community really looked like.
- The Arts: Ever since I was about thirteen years old, I loved to express myself creatively through writing. After coming to Christ, a certain tension arose from within me, which pitted Christianity against the arts (or, vice versa). Early on, I had not heard much encouragement from the church (at large) toward the continual cultivation of creativity for Christ’s sake. Yet, God has shown me through the past few years that we are called to create beautifully and realistically through Christ, as we were created in and are being renewed after the image of our Creator.
To be cont’d…
Here are a few key factors that have shaped who I am and what I believe.
- True Christianity, True Church: My experience in the church (mainly Baptist) without being a Christian for so many years has greatly shaped what I believe about what makes a Christian truly Christian. Believing the facts of the Gospel and being involved in the activities of the church does not grant nor guarantee a right standing with God. It is the embracing of Christ and his work on our behalf, which God accepts, and not merely embracing the facts about Christ and his work. While I grew up in the church, my life did not match my profession of faith (especially in my teen years). Not until I was twenty-two years old and at the end of my rope did I turn from my rebellious ways to the living God in Christ. This experience in the church as an unbeliever for so long is continuing to shape my rethinking of what makes Christ’s church truly Christ’s church.
- Desire for Discipleship: A deep sense of my own need for guidance in following Christ as a new believer, showed me early on that we are not able nor are we meant to be lone rangers. I often had unrealistic expectations for the men who helped me along the way. Yet, at the same time, I am beginning to grasp a more Biblical view of discipleship, which far exceeded what I had hoped for as a new believer. In my very limited experience and knowledge of Biblical discipleship, as I have benefited from those who have helped me along the path, I have likewise sought to help fellow struggling disciples of Jesus. In sum, I have found the necessity for life on life discipleship to be so urgent, yet so rare.
- Growing through Reading/Studying: Before becoming a Christian, I despised reading and studying. During this time, I had no goals whatsoever after high school graduation. Yet, I probably read more books in the year God saved me than the combined amount read all the years up until then. When God gave me a new heart for himself, he also immediately gave me new affections altogether for the Bible and other books. I am a living testimony that one God-ordained means of spiritual growth is via reading and studying.
To be cont’d…