Who Were/Are the Five Biggest Influences to Your Christian Life?
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you” (Hebrews 13:7, NASB).
I will answer the question first by telling you some things about my childhood:
My mom tells me that Dad began reading the Bible to me the day I came home from the hospital. I know all my years growing up, until the very day I moved out of the house a month before my marriage, Dad either read or recited a verse of the Bible to me every single day. That was Dad’s way of being obedient to the biblical injunction to “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV).
Not only did Dad often teach our family on Sundays, but every single night before we went to bed, Dad would read or recite the Bible to us.
When my brother and I were little guys, Dad might have read portions of Scripture that we requested: Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath, the Miracles of Elijah and Elisha, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, or the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace. As we got older, and a little more rebellious, Dad made it a rule that when we were going to bed we had to tell him; so he could then come into our room(s) and recite a Bible verse. And when we were over 18 and would stay out late, coming home after Mom and Dad were long asleep, we were instructed to come into their room to let them know we were home, and then Dad would still recite a verse to us, which very often, if he was half asleep, would be one of his favorite Proverbs: “He who is kind to the poor, lends to the LORD, and He will repay” (Proverbs 19:17).
I thought about how many times Dad would have read or recited a verse to me, adding up (estimating) all the days between coming home from the hospital to the day I moved out. I came up with the number 8,493. Did Dad give me the Scripture 8,493 days in a row? But wait! I remembered those nights in my youth, when Dad was going to night school, and he was not home at bed time. Mom took over on those nights. And I remember that Mom usually recited one of two Psalms with us, Psalms she had taught us to memorize, the 23rd Psalm and Psalm 100.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul”
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for Thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointeth my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (KJV).
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise:
be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.
For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting;
and His truth endureth to all generations (KJV).
How beautiful those Psalms are. And how beautiful the memories! And, truth be told, my very first memory is a most precious one, a foundational one, a wonderful blessing to me, and an amazing blessing upon my parent’s heads: My very first memory is that of my mother and father coming into the bedroom my brother and I shared, and giving me and my older brother our very first Bibles. I was three years, one month, and one week old. I know the date because I still have that Bible, and the inscription is still in the front to me, “from Daddy and Mommy”, followed by the date. I praise and thank God for that memory. I praise and thank God for my parents.
Therefore, when I make up my list of the five greatest influences upon my life, the five greatest Christian influences upon me, I begin with my father and mother. I thank God for His graciousness in giving me to them, and for His giving me such a wonderful spiritual heritage. God is forever praised. Amen.
So here is my list, perhaps at another time I might find the time and space to tell you about the others who have made the top five:
In order to help spark your memory: Think of people who you have known or met personally like youth leaders, camp counselors, missionaries, pastors, worship leaders, Bible study leaders, school teachers, coaches, classmates, friends, neighbors, siblings, or the person on the El platform who gave you a tract. Think also of those you may never have met, who also may have impacted you, like writers, apologists, evangelists, radio preachers and teachers, Christians in the performing arts, Christians bands, etc. Consider also that sometimes a person may have impacted us because of something that happened to them. Perhaps a tragic death, even that of an unbeliever, impacted us and turned us to Christ. Perhaps something an unbeliever said or did to us, lead us to Christ. And, sometimes people impact us by friction or antagonism; perhaps a pastor or a person at a church affected you so negatively that you ended up at another church, where you thrived and grew by leaps and bounds in your walk with God. Lastly, I know a non-person may have had a huge affect on our Christianity, a movie like The Passion or an event like September 11th. God has limitless methods and all people at His disposal, for His purposes and for His glory.
In the end I acknowledge it was God who saved me by His grace, through the obedience, the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, and who awakened and regenerated me by His Holy Spirit.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?
Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever! Amen (Romans 11:33-36).
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…. by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10, NASB).
Feel free to read my other columns at http://www.examiner.com/christian-perspectives-in-philadelphia/stephen-j-drain.
 See my column entitled “Confessions of a Church Critic” paragraph 7. It can be found at http://blogs.bible.org/impact/stephen_j._drain/confessions_of_a_church_critic
 There have been several Christian recording artists or bands that have had huge impacts on my life over the years. I had to choose at least one of them, so I chose Larry Norman. The other impactful bands were/are Resurrection Band, Stryper, and Caedmon’s Call.
 Tom was an artistically gifted Christian I met back in the late 1990s. We started a Christian band and a Bible study together. Back in the day, I really looked up to him and admired him in many ways. Knowing him sparked me to new levels of artistic creativity, sparked my Bible reading and Bible study again. Unfortunately, differences and disagreements sent us in different directions. Still, those short few years of intense close creative interaction, as well as the clashes and the resulting falling out we had, sent my life down a new path, a changed direction, especially in my Christian walk and beliefs. God works in mysterious ways. And I know two things for certain: “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These are two verses that I learned were absolutely true through my life and times with my friend Tom.