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From Student to Teacher

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46

“The teacher encourages
the student morphs – moth to beauteous butterfly soars” 

Mala Naidoo, author

When God directed me to start the Emboldened blog He also led me to a few simple quotes to put on the homepage. I didn’t know at the time one day I’d be using those quotes for this week’s study on Jesus and His teaching nature! Of the few quotes He led me to, I included this one by Joyce Meyer:

“If you leave church and are not convicted, asking questions, or emboldened then either you are at the wrong church or you weren’t paying attention.”

Joyce Meyer

How many times have you left church and within an hour couldn’t remember what the sermon was about?  You couldn’t even pull up the general topic in your memory?  

I recently heard someone say that we don’t go to church to sit and put in our “dues” to God.  It’s where we should 1) be rejuvenated for the mission and 2) get more training for the mission.  And the second we leave the doors of our “God classroom” we should be at the ready to embark on the commission which Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. When church becomes a place where we leave just feeling like that was a “nice” experience, at best, or an obligation, at worst, we owe it to our personal faith progression to re-evaluate the situation.

When I started going to church my family ended up at a large Presbyterian church nearby.  The pastor was just what I needed at the time.  He was more counselor than teacher.  And when I left each Sunday I felt he had really spoken to the problems I was having and reminded me that God loved me.  The sermons were light on scripture, maybe one or two mentioned, and heavy on personal stories. But I soon found that sole message to be not quite enough.  I wanted to know more.  And the “teaching” sermons were what I gobbled up.   As my husband can attest, I’m very curious.  He constantly reminds me that I like to ask questions that seem to have no answers.  

As a developing Christian, we should all be asking questions about God.  If this “almighty being” is to be the center of our universe, the touchstone for how we live our lives, and the message we herald, shouldn’t we know everything we can know so we are prepared when sin enters our sphere?  So we can be prepared when a seeking, fellow man starts asking us questions?  

From learner to teacher.  That’s exactly the path Jesus took.  Here’s the rest of the scene when Jesus’ parents found him, as a boy, in the temple courts.

"Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." Luke 2:47

And so, I constantly seek to learn more about this awesome God.  At the beginning of this year my husband and I were directed to a new church.  My son-in-law and his friend host a Christian men’s podcast called “Supplement the Faith.”  They heard on a local St. Louis radio station a show called “Core Christianity.”  The main host is Pastor Adriel Sanchez, who unbeknownst to me at the time, is a pastor in my town.  They raved about his sound, Christian doctrine and told us we had to go check him out. 

And so we went.  The music was not my favorite – very simple and traditional hymns.  The style of service was more formal than I was used to.  But when Pastor Adriel gave his sermon I realized I was listening to a teaching pastor.  That day, my church “program” was scribbled all over with notes!

In a brief period of time, I’ve learned a lot from and about Pastor Adriel.  He and his beautiful wife have four little children with another on the way.  This young pastor, who has led his fairly recently planted church for only about seven years, can be heard on the radio and podcast throughout the world via Core Christianity – which is a question and answer format.  His youthfulness stands in contrast to his calm, confident poise.  I recently asked Pastor Adriel if he’d be willing, in his busy schedule, to talk about his pastoral style.   

And if you are on your faith journey toward learning more about His Word, I encourage you to tune in to either Pastor Adriel’s sermons at North Park Presbyterian (PCA) or the Core Christianity podcast.  The questions asked on the podcast might just be something you get asked one day!

Kris:  You seem to be drawn toward being more of a “teaching” type pastor than say a “counselor” type.  How do you think you developed that style?

Pastor Adriel: I have a firm conviction that from the pulpit my job is to communicate God’s word clearly, and seek to apply it to the folks that God has entrusted to my care. Teaching or explaining the Bible is really important to me because I know that God’s word is the source of life. I do seek to provide biblical wisdom or counsel at times – but often that happens in the context of one on one conversations within the church.

K: Who are your favorite Christian authors/pastors?

PA: I love reading the Christian classics. St. Augustine’s Confessions, Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Calvin’s Institutes,  C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I nerd out on church history, so I really enjoy reading the early church fathers. As far as living authors are concerned, I like books by theologians like Michael Horton, and pastors like Tim Keller.

K: What got you involved in doing Core Christianity and the podcast?

PA: One of my seminary professors invited me to be on a podcast he had hosted for decades called the White Horse Inn. Over time, we started thinking about a new project that would reach a broader audience helping them to understand the core doctrines of Christianity. A lot of research has come out recently highlighting how little Christians know about their faith – so this was a huge need. Our goal has been to answer basic listener questions about the Bible and the Christian life, and in the process to point folks to Jesus and his gospel. As we grow in our understanding of God’s word, we’re enabled to love and serve God better. 

K: What do you like most about doing the podcast?

PA: I love the live element. I think it makes the show exciting, because we can’t really anticipate what kind of call we’re going to get. As a pastor, I also love it when I’m able to answer a question for someone and I can tell audibly that they’re encouraged by God’s word. 

K: What are the most frequent topics you get asked?

PA: Questions related to marriage, assurance of salvation, finding a good church, and how to properly apply God’s law are common from our audience. Depending on what’s going on in our broader society, we also will get questions on current events. 

K: What question have you gotten that “stumped” you? And what was the funniest question?

PA: Never been stumped! Just kidding. Actually, sometimes we get very obscure Bible questions, or questions for which there is no clear biblical answer. I find those questions to be the most difficult to handle. As far as the funniest question we’ve received… not long ago someone asked if there were fish on the ark too. That one made me chuckle. 

K:  Which book of the Bible do you enjoy teaching the most and why?

PA: I find that whichever book I am preaching through tends to become my favorite book for that season. Believe it or not, I had a ton of fun preaching through Leviticus a couple of years back. I also really enjoy preaching through the Gospels. I preached through Mark early in my ministry, and like to revisit the Gospels from time to time in-between other books. 

K: Which book seems to be the most misunderstood?

PA: As I field questions about the Bible, I think one book that’s frequently misunderstood is Galatians. Many believers don’t have a proper understanding of the distinction between the law, and the gospel, and they struggle to understand how God’s law (and various OT commandments) are to be applied today. Galatians is helpful because it speaks to this kind of problem. 

K: Do you see value in studying the entire Bible — not just the New Testament — and why?

PA: Absolutely. Jesus said in John 5 that Moses wrote of him, and in Luke 24 that the entire Bible was about him. The entire Bible gives us a glorious picture of redemptive history, and each story in that history is meant to instruct us in one way or another (1 Cor. 10:11). If you don’t study the Old Testament, you’ll miss out on so many of the riches in the New Testament, and you’ll miss out on Jesus as he’s revealed in the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. 

K: What are your overall personal goals as a pastor for say the next 5 years? 10 years?

PA: Honestly, I just want to be a good husband, a good dad, and a faithful pastor. My goal is to grow in that for the next 5-10 years. 

Thank you to Pastor Adriel for his time!  Whether it be through a teaching pastor, Bible study groups/individual, Christian authors, a radio show or Christian podcast, these days we have so many resources at our fingertips to get to know God.   As Christians, we must make it a priority to place this knowledge of His ways firmly at the forefront of our lives.

I wanted to leave you today with this quote about being a learning and then teaching Christian:

He who asks will have; what more did he ask for? But he who seeks will go further; he will find, will enjoy, will grasp, and will know that he has obtained. He who knocks will go further still, for he will understand, and to him will the precious thing be opened. He will not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but he will comprehend it.  

Charles Spurgeon

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Living In The Light

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 
2 Corinthians 4:6

I’ve been thinking a lot about separateness lately.  As the world seems to move farther and farther away from the message of Christ, I find myself feeling separated from so much of the goings on.  Politics, social and moral issues that the world promotes appear to be so upside down.  At times I’ve asked, “Where is God in all of this?”

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“What on earth is He up to?” is, I suppose, the better question.  Since the beginning of time God’s work has been about separateness.  He separated the dark from the light.  The land from the sea.  The heavens from the earth.  He even set apart man from beast.  And when He commanded that there would be light it also meant He would set apart good from evil.  From that day on He started working in our hearts to bring us into the light.  The light that Jesus gave direct access to through His sacrifice.

I’ve been visiting a new church with my husband.  The pastor is Adriel Sanchez.  Some of you may recognize him as one of the duo from Core Christianity – a podcast and radio show heard around the world.  His church has begun a new series on Genesis.  And he spoke on the creation of light and dark.  

God created beauty, order and light and He didn’t need ingredients.  He made them out of nothing, darkness.

Pastor Adriel Sanchez

He went on to put the Jewish (and eventually Christian) creation story in to context.  The Jews were most likely wandering in the desert when this story was possibly given to Moses from God.  Their lives were dark and chaotic.  And while other religions of the time, just like today, have their own creation story, those religions created gods out of what was created – the Sun God, Moon God, God of Nature, etc.  You’ll notice in Genesis that the sun and moon aren’t called those names.  Possibly to avoid man from elevating them to a worshipping status.  God created all the things that these other religions made into little gods.

We weren’t created to serve the sun, the moon, or nature.  They were created FOR man by God.

Pastor Adriel Sanchez

When you think about what God did for us humans it’s pretty amazing.  Think about a gift you received that was the best gift ever.  Do you remember how you thanked the person who gave it to you?  Now imagine this gift that God gave us.  The light, the land, the skies, the animals.  How could we ever thank Him enough?  All He has ever asked of us is to set ourselves apart from the darkness. 

Our hearts are like the wilderness – dark and chaotic.  And God says to our hearts, “Let there be light!

Pastor Adriel Sanchez

So let’s go back to C.S. Lewis’ imagery of rebuilding the house.  God is working on rebuilding the world.  God works on large scale projects while also working on our tiny little bathroom remodel.  It’s the same work schedule He has maintained throughout history. There’s a lot of knocking down walls going on.  And with that comes a lot of pushback from people who don’t want the light to enter in the room.  They enjoy living in the darkness in order to put themselves and their desires at their center.   

I’ve heard people talk disparaging about the Bible – its violence especially.  Many uneducated about the Bible take issue with destroying whole towns and killing off all the residents.  But put in context it was a major remodel taking place.  Those cities were rife with termites and rot.  Child sacrifices and unbridled sexual exploits all in the name of satisfying some fertility god were rampant.  They were just plain evil.  

And while God was using other people and the Jews to destroy those darkened places He made it a point to work in each and every Israelite’s heart.  He cared about behavior but He cared more for bringing light to their hearts and minds.  They were to act like people set apart from the darkness. He cared enough about us, as individuals, to first send His Son and then leave us with the light of His Holy Spirit to dwell in each of us.

It’s hard to live set apart from the world.  It may cause our faith, at times, to wane.  But I’m finding when I change my question from “Where is God?” to “What on earth is He up to?” it helps me to see His work in me and the world.  For when I see my Savior I surely want to be remodeled, a house full of light.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Our New Identity

Do your best to present yourself to 
God as one approved, a worker who 
does not need to be ashamed and who 
correctly handles the word of truth. 
2 Timothy 2:15

When I quit working full time about 25 years ago, it was hard for me to accept that I no longer contributed financially to our little family.  My identity was wrapped up in working.  I had earned money since I was a kid collecting cans and newspapers and turning them into the recycler.  In college at one point, I had a job, a paid internship, a full load of classes, and was the president of a professional-based club.  Work was what I knew and work was what defined me.

Not long after I decided to stay home with our 2-year old daughter I found myself face-to-face with my identity problem.  My daughter and I were walking home from a neighborhood park.  We had to cross a very busy street.  When we got the “walk” sign we made our way across in the crosswalk.  In one of the cars waiting for the light to change was an obviously very angry and impatient man.  He yelled out the window to me, “Hey loser, why don’t you get a job?”

Instead of being angry I was mortified.  You see, I agreed with him.  I wasn’t seeing myself as first a mother and wife then someone who could, if I wanted to, get a job.  I saw myself first as a jobless loser.

What do you see yourself as first these days?

As my faith journey has progressed my answer to that question has evolved.  Once my second daughter came along, I threw myself into motherhood.  I even placed being a wife much farther down the list for a bit.  Being a Christian was way down on the list.  In between I was a “coach,” a “PTA president,” a “school volunteer,” a “Girl Scout leader.”  And now, looking back, had I placed “Christian” as my primary identity I would’ve made a number of different choices along the way.

Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. I can go sit in the garage all day and it doesn’t make me a car.

Joyce Meyer

I love this quote by Joyce Meyer because it speaks to the heart of this issue of identity.  We may say what our identity is but how do we act?  What do we base our decisions on day in and day out?  Do we decide what’s best for our kids based on their happiness or based on God’s direction?  Do we treat our spouses based on where we place our marriage on our identity list or on God’s expectation of us?  Do we hold dear the income from that job more than we do our relationship with our Lord?

It’s taken me awhile to truly accept the identity hierarchy God wants for me – 1) Jesus Follower 2) Wife 3) Mother 4) Whatever else He directs me to.  And in our verse today the priority for us is to be a “God Approved Worker for Him.”  Not ashamed of following His Word as best we can in every decision we make.

I used to listen to the famed Dr. Laura quite a lot.  One day she was talking about divorce.  She said that if you go into a marriage with the option of getting divorced you will always find reasons to not work on your marriage.  But if you go into it (having made a healthy choice of spouse) with the priority of staying together no matter what, you will always find new and creative ways to work out problems.  Our faith is a lot like that.

When we place our faith as our primary identity it changes who we marry, who we spend time with, what type of job we want, how we use our money, how we treat our families and friends, and more. We are God’s co-workers.   And we are tasked with being proud of that identity.  

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, 
stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always 
give yourselves fully to the work of the 
Lord, because you know that your labor in 
the Lord is not in vain.  
1 Corinthians 15:58

So again, I ask, what identity have you placed at the top of your list?

If it’s not “Christian” why not?  What’s holding you back?  God is waiting for you to put Him first.  Because when you do then, I believe, He claps His hands and says, “Great, now let’s get down to business!”

This is a great except from C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity that might help spur you on to your new identity. 

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”