Christian Witness

Offering A Brief Glimpse into My Life and the Formation of My Thought

Who am I? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with mylife? These were the questions that plagued my mind when I was in my youth. Thereason for this was because I was repeatedly told that I needed to figure outwhat I wanted to do after graduation. Was I going to college? Then I needed toknow where, and what I was going to major in. Was I going to start working?Then I needed to know where, and what trade I was willing to learn.

Having received an academic scholarship from the Universityof Charleston, in Charleston, W.V. my path seemed chosen for me. Who would passup free money to go to school? Obviously, I wasn’t a lout when it came tostudies. I’ve always been a bit of a book nerd, with a tendency to analyze(some would say “over analyze) everything. I left home a little more than twomonths after graduation (August 21st, 1997) moved into the dormitoryand began attending classes a few days later. A couple of weeks before this Ihad applied for a waiter position at a Pizza Hut about two miles down the road,so extra income was not going to be a problem.

My chosen field of study was psychology with a minor insociology. Classes were not hard, although if you were to look at my grades youmight think otherwise. In fact, before my second semester I was warned by myacademic advisor that my scholarship was about to be put on probation. Thelimitations placed on the scholarship were pretty simple, maintain a B average(I wanted to say 3.4, but I could be wrong; its been a few years). I believe Iwas around a 2.6.

There were several mitigating problems that led to thisstate.

First, I did not manage my new-found freedom very well. 

Personal Cutscene now Ensuing: For the better part of my life I had been raised in church (since about the age of 3 or 4). My dad had served in preaching ministry as a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene since the turn of the decade (early 90’s, I wanted to say 1991, but I can’t be sure). Looking back there was never a time that I doubted what I had been taught or read from the Bible.

It was at the age of 7 when Ireally became aware of the fact that I was a sinner who needed saving (I canstill remember the revival service in New Lexington, OH where I went to thealtar of my own volition—no coercion was present, my own conscience inconfliction motivated me). As a little child I cried out to Jesus to save me,acknowledging myself a sinner. However, as children are prone to do I strayedfar afield.

Theologically, we could argue whether or not I was truly saved, but that would have to be another discussion. My point right now, is that my freedom and my lack of personal motivation to serve the Lord with all my heart proved disastrous. Now, I did not walk away unscathed. My heart was continually tormented and my conscience would intermittently feel the prick of sin. Even when I seemed to grow very calloused to the things I once held dear, it seemed the Holy Spirit would put people in my path to give me a proverbial gut punch; to remind me He was still there.

My grades slipped as a result of my freedom. I spent toomuch time…well, I’ll let your imagination fill the void there…and skippingclass became the norm.

Secondly, I found that my choice of major/minor were notcompatible with my current worldview. Now I didn’t know what a worldview was atthe time, but I did know that what I was being taught in psychology andsociology did not coalesce with my thoughts on human nature and how people inthe world ought to live. There was a great divide in regards to thepresuppositions that the heads of those departments held with my own (again Ididn’t know what presuppositions were at the time either). Our differingassumptions, biases and traditions led to conflict.

Uhm…Another Brief Cutscene Ensues: The head of the psychology department was a redhead and so when his anger rose so did the color of his face. I experienced this first hand in a class he was teaching with about 30 of my peers when I challenged something he said during a lecture. I don’t believe I was confrontational, but we sometimes have a fine way of justifying the way we speak to others…so I may have been. In any event, before long he was yelling at me and finger pointing. The end of the matter being, I went to his office and told him that I would be changing my major/minor. He responded, and this is paraphrased, “Good, we don’t need people like you in this field!”

So, in the end, though I had changed my major to Education(don’t remember what I changed my minor to; political science maybe?), after mysecond semester I transferred to another school in another state and startedworking for my grandfather’s construction company in Crooksville, OH.

What happened that made this transition in my life seemnecessary? Well, during the month of May, towards the end of April, when schooldismissed I found myself alone. All of my friends had ventured back to theirperspective states. Earlier in the year, at the turn of the second semester myroommate and I had decided to get an apartment off campus. Although, the schoolattempted to dissuade us from this, citing that first-year students (i.e.freshman) needed to remain on campus, we were just as adamant that as adults wewould make our own living decisions…thank you very much!

Yeah, yeah…Here’s another one of those cutscenes: The end of the semester led to some unsettling realities. I’m a bit of a movie buff, so I went to the movies alone (remember everybody was gone). A new sci-fi thriller had come out the week before. As I sat in the theater I kept waiting for people to come in and take their seats; none did. Towards the end of the movie, the feeling of emptiness really pressed in on me. I kept thinking, I am as empty inside as this theater is.

About a week later (I think), I had one of the older guys from work buy me a case of Budweiser. I had put it on ice before my shift at Pizza Hut the day before. When my workday was done, I sat down facing the big bay window in my apartment and watched the sunset over the mountains. A truly beautiful sight to be sure, but my heart was sad. The constant refrain kept running through my mind, “Kristafal…what are you doing with your life? How long will you attempt to live without me?” Now, I’m not saying that the Lord was truly speaking in my mind here, nor am I saying that God does not speak or cannot speak in such a fashion to His creatures, but I believe a more appropriate retelling is to state that what I knew about God and myself as a created being, the Holy Spirit was bringing to the forefront of my mind.

We read the Bible to learn about God and man. We read the Bible to hear the voice of God—that is why He went to such great care in preserving it and why so much blood has been spilled that we may have access to it. We read the Bible, for that is how the Holy Spirit conditions (renews) our minds, and it is through the Bible that we hear the voice of God (cf. 1John 4.1).

At the age of 19, I was struggling with who I was, why I wasborn, and what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Those answers did notcome to fruition until late in the winter of 2004. In the month of February, I foundmyself in a movie theater once again (do you remember me mentioning that I’m abit of a movie buff?). This night I didn’t want to go, but I was invited bysome family to see Mel Gibson’s new movie The Passion of the Christ. Barringall the errors in the film theologically, and all the criticisms that you mightwant to levy at it, that movie caused a great quake to rupture through myheart.

I’m not even going to say it this time: The language of Hebrew and Aramaic broke through the darkness and weighty silence of the theater’s crowd. Every slash of the Roman whip across the back of who was supposed to be Jesus of Nazareth made my heart ache. The mockery of the Romans and the Jews, the long walk to Golgotha—the place of the Skull—the driving of the nails (spikes) into the hands and feet of Jesus, the agony displayed as he was hung upon the cross. All of these things and many more brought to life in a different way the various passages I had been taught and read over the years. My breath escaped me, each attempt to draw air into my lungs harder than the last. All I kept thinking through the snot and tears was that He bore my iniquities through the punishment He endured (cf. Isa 53). His blood (“the life is in the blood” Lev 17.11) was offered in substitution for my own—Life for life.

I could not leave that theaterwithout begging for mercy and forgiveness. “Jesus died for me! How could Ipossibly continue living my life as if this were not true?” These were thethoughts that plagued my mind and I praise the Lord for that even to this day.

Before attending this showing, I had already been attendinga small Nazarene church in Roseville, OH. My work at my grandfather’sconstruction company had ended. I was now working in Columbus, OH for acommercial HVAC company. After the showing my life experienced a dramaticchange of course.

You could not shut me up about Jesus and how He hadtransformed my life. Reading the Bible was pleasurable again, as it was when Iwas a child. I couldn’t put down God’s Word. My heart burned in similar fashionas those disciples on the road to Emmaus must have (Luke 24.13-32). When helpwas needed in the local church I was there volunteering. Before too long, I wasteaching the Teen Sunday school class. Later, I began singing in the choir andeventually performed solos. By April of 2006 I testified that I was feeling ledinto Christian ministry. The local church affirmed this, and later so did theDistrict on which our church served. I began Bible college in the fall(Nazarene Bible College, Colorado Springs, CO), eventually graduating in 2011.

On November of 2008, I accepted my first pastoral positionin Chesterhill, OH. I continued to grow in the Lord, even though I will be thefirst one to tell you and confess that I am a sinner saved by grace. I want tostress that fact that Christians are sinners. Doesn’t matter if we serve in ministryor not, there will always be a struggle with our sinful nature inherited by ourforeparents.[1]You may want to disagree with that position, but I will let you argue with theLord and His Word on that one (cf. Gal 5.16-17). Some would say, and I havebeen told, that pastors shouldn’t say that they are sinners. I disagree.

I am no different than any other person on this planet (now,past or present). What makes me different is that I have been made alive inChrist Jesus (Eph 2.5-6). Realizing that the standard is to be perfect as my heavenlyfather is perfect (Matt 5.48; cf. Lev 19.2; 20.26), that this is the true intentbehind loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and myneighbor as myself (how horribly short we all fall HERE!), how could I dare sayother than I am a sinner saved by grace?

Now, I was raised Wesleyan-Arminian, but I no longer hold tothose tenents. I cannot in good conscience. This was why I resigned as a pastorfrom the Church of the Nazarene, even though I was due to be ordained.[2]I am firmly resolute in my conviction in Reformed thought. I am unashamed as aCalvinist, although I would argue that John Calvin would probably roll over inhis grave if he knew that his name was being used as an identifier rather thanjust a Christian.

Why the change? Well, to be perfectly honest for far toolong I had believed things according to tradition and I had never challengedthose traditions with what the Bible taught historically, grammatically, andcontextually. Over the course of a couple years, as I served as pastor in asmall rural church, I began investigating orthodox Christian thought from thepast and comparing what they said with what I held to be true, under the lightof Scripture. The key issue for me was if I am going to be a Christian minister[3]who preaches and teaches the Word of God, where should my ultimate commitmentlie? Tradition or Scripture? Philosophy or Scripture? Science or Scripture? UnaidedReason or Scripture?

I was once told in a liberal chat session by a minister whostood well outside of what has been historically known as Christian thought,that he wished he had the conviction and passion that I did. I asked, “Why can’tyou? You have access to the same Scripture that I do.” He refused to shift histheological underpinnings, though he appreciated my own.

If it is true that in Jesus Christ are found “all thetreasures of wisdom and knowledge,” (Col 2.3; cf. 1.9-10) and if it is true thatwe as Christians are to bring “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor10.5), then why would I want to understand any of the subjects mentioned abovewithout the introspective lens of Scripture guiding and correcting my understandingof them? The fact is I don’t, and I can’t see how any Christian consistently could.

Okay, but why the life story? Why the glimpse into my life?Because I want the reader to know, whoever they may be that I say the things Ido out of love. First for the Lord, and second for you. Recently I was toldabout a confrontation a person had with their doctor (psychiatrist) who is ofIndian descent (not Native American). The doctor was of the assumption thatthere may be one god, but many paths led to him which is why we see theexpression of so many religious beliefs. The individual answered, “No, there isonly one God, one truth, one way, one life. If one religion is true, then theothers are false.” That upset the doctor to no end. The person told me that whatthe doc was saying didn’t make sense anyway. He said, “there is no ‘s’ on theend of way, truth and life (ref. to John 14.6).” I praise the Lord that this memberof my church was able to speak the truth in love in a circumstance where manyothers would balk.

I confess that I may speak very passionately and strongly attimes, but my hope is that you all understand…whoever you may be…that the loveof Christ compels me. We may disagree on a multitude of subjects, and that isfine, but I want to speak the truth of the Lord in love in the hope that somemight hear and be moved to respond. The truth of the matter is this, our livesare very short, and it is not a question of “if” but of “when” we will meet ourMaker….In what state, do you want to meet Him? Apart from Jesus Christ, youwill be irrevocably lost. My prayer is that is not the case.

ENDNOTES:


[1] I do believe that thisstruggle lessens somewhat as we become conformed to God’s way of thinkingrather than our own, but this battle will be present to some extent throughout our whole life.

[2] Myordination did come a couple of years later within the SBC; April 2014.

[3] Beinga Christian minister is not necessary to use this application. It should applyto all Christian thought, regardless of their position.

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