“One cannot be truly educated without taking some interest in Christianity.”
– John Frame1
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June 7, 1992.
That was the day I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. Though I was only nine years old, I knew what I was doing. I knew I was a sinner and I knew that without Jesus in my life I was lost and would go to hell if I died. And so in the bedroom I shared with my younger brother, my dad sat down with me next to a wooden toy chest and helped me pray and ask Jesus to be my Savior.
I grew up in upstate New York, twenty minutes from Lake Ontario and thirty minutes from Syracuse, home of the Orangmen. The church that my family belonged to was an independent Baptist church that taught a six-thousand year old universe, the imminent return of Jesus to rapture his saints away, and the inerrancy of the King James Bible (and only the King James Bible). From the pulpit our pastor would encourage us to read no fewer than ten pages of our Bible’s daily and our church bulletin reinforced that admonition every Sunday. Every so often an itinerant evangelist would come through and preach their own brand of fire-and-brimstone exposition, lamenting the rotten state of American culture and exhorting us to stay in God’s word. We also regularly supported missionaries who took the gospel all around the globe and who would come back to the US on furlough to offer their supporting churches updates on their ventures as well as to secure additional funding to carry the work forward.
My Dad, the Bible Reading Prayer Warrior
As strong as an influence the church had on me, my father had a far greater one. My dad is the kind of guy who attends church nearly every time the doors are open. This isn’t because he thinks of church as a social club. On the contrary, my father is undoubtedly the most pious man I’ve ever known. While working as an auto mechanic, he would get up every weekday around 4:30am so that he could spend time in his Bible and pray. This was his practice for my entire childhood and, though he is retired now and he sleeps in a bit, it still is. Needless to say, he has worn out many Bibles. I can recall one particular Bible that smelled like the coffee he had spilled on its pages over many years. And next to every chapter he would place a single dot to indicate that he had read it. Every chapter had five or six dots next to them and the chapters in Proverbs had many more since it was his practice to read one chapter of Proverbs everyday.
My father also regularly prayed with me. Every night, from the age of five until the day I graduated high school, my dad would come into my room before he went to bed to pray with me and for me. Normally I would start and would pray for people we knew who were sick or people who had wandered from the faith. For me it felt like a mantra as I would say the same things time after time. But not for my dad. He would close with his own prayer and his sincerity and love for God was very evident. And after he finished prayer with me he would perform the same action with my younger brother.
Prayer was important to my dad and still is. In the mornings, after he had finished his Bible reading, he would take a notebook which contained the names of various people needing prayer, and he would slowly work through them. He also had a stack of missionary cards that had the names of missionaries and their families as well as a picture of them. He would remove the rubber band that held the stack together, and slowly work through each and every card. On a few occasions I would catch my dad on the floor, lying face down, praying for someone who urgently needed it. When people were needing prayer, they would ask my dad. When the pastor needed prayer, the first person he would call was my father.
In some of my darkest moments when I needed prayer, the first person I would call was my father.
Love for Reading
Following my “conversion” in 1992, I began to read the Bible in earnest. I had received my first Bible around the age of five (if memory serves) but did not seriously read it until after I became a Christian. I have always been an avid reader, regularly devouring books at a feverish pace since I was very young. Some of that has to do with a speech impediment I had when I was little. It was nothing major, though the State of New York had written my parents a letter stating I was “mentally retarded” because of it. Consequently, I was forced to go to speech therapy in the first and second grades.
The therapist, a woman whose name I cannot remember but who was a thin, dark-haired woman probably in her late twenties, would sit all of us in a circle and make us read a book aloud. We would do this probably twice a week and within a couple of years I stopped saying “fruck” when I meant to say “truck.” (Take that, New York!) My mother believes that it was this experience of reading aloud to cure an impediment that led to my love of reading that grew throughout my childhood and teenage years and continues to this day. Of course, my mother’s general love for reading also played a part.
In my next post I’ll discuss my experiences as a teenager and my role as a leader to my fellow teens in our church’s youth group.
1 John Frame, Christianity Considered: A Guide for Skeptics and Seekers (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 5.