I was recently reminded about how my family tree has many people no longer living in this life but they still have great influence on my thinking. My parents were Christ followers and I was raised in a Christian family for which I am eternally thankful. My Grandmother and Great-Grandmother, Great-Aunts and Great Uncles all had a strong impact in my life and to this day I am still influenced by their God-honoring lives. They really did nothing special in that they were not highly educated or extremely wealthy, but each one had a profound impact on me as I was growing up. We all have a family tree and hopefully our family tree is bearing good fruit but for many Christians including me we have another family tree. Our other family tree is our Christian Family Tree.
I was thinking of how many Christians have really impacted me over the course of my life, people who are not blood or marriage relatives. Pastors that I listened to and learned a great deal from or Sunday School teachers that always had a friendly smile and a lesson to teach. Or elders that greeted me at the door of my small country church every Sunday morning and asked me how my week had gone. I want to talk about a few of my favorites from my Christian Family Tree.
Dwayne Dunning baptized me when I was eight years old. He was a kind and gentle preacher and I always remember his beautiful violin music and his love of antique cars. He was a teacher more than a preacher and boy did I learn from his sermons. He could make the Old Testament stories come alive in such a way that a wiggle-worm little kid like me could learn. His Dad, Guy B. Dunning, would come and do revivals at our church and I learned more about the book of Revelation from him than from nearly anyone else and I still love to study that book of the Bible. They both impacted me for good of that I have no doubt.
Ruth Smith was my Sunday School teacher for many years. Often times there were only two or three of us in her class but she taught us as if there were a hundred and I often think of her faithfulness in teaching me. There were many times that the other student of hers would pretend to drift off to sleep because he didn’t want to be there but Mrs. Smith would continue the lesson as if she didn’t notice only one of us was awake. I really liked her and I am so thankful for her commitment to me as one of her students.
Two other people who always had a friendly smile and hello for me was Milo and Nettie Buskirk. Milo was a long time elder in the church of my youth, a short little man with wire-rimmed glasses and always wearing the same dark suit and always a friendly hand shake of welcome. Nettie, his wife, was tall and thin and often wore a short pearl necklace. She taught the adult women’s Sunday School lesson and I was blessed as a young Mom to be one of her students. She taught me to be a prayer warrior and to never judge people for what they do because we don’t know what their life has been like. She was so kind to me as I grew up around her and she never forgot my name. I just loved her!
Another person that greatly influenced me although I have never met him, only listened to him on the radio, is Chuck Swindoll. I think that I must have begun listening to his sermons when he first began his ministry of Insight for Living. I have learned much from his wealth of knowledge and willingness to share his sermons with all of us. I am thankful for solid Biblical preaching like he does and I look forward to meeting him someday, probably in heaven.
I had the rare privilege to attend a Bible college when I was young and there are two instructors that really taught me a lot, Dennis Murray and Olin Atwood. Mr. Atwood was older than Mr. Murray as Mr. Murray was just a young guy out of college. Both were interesting and knowledgeable in their Bible classes and I learned a ton from each of them. Watching them over the years being strong soldiers of the cross and seeing some of the painful things they endured has made me realize that the life of a Christian is not always a happy one but it is a joyful one. These two men suffered but did so with humility and grace and integrity. I am thankful for their teachings and their example of how to live out your faith.
How can I forget my missionary friends and all that I learned from each of them? Bill and Melba Rees taught me that faithfulness and obedience is more precious than gold. Wing Wong taught me that doing your best for the Lord is a requirement but not necessarily a burden. He taught me to love the Chinese people with a fierce love, one that only God can bring to our hearts. He also taught me that faith is an active part of a Christian’s life and prayer is the activator of that faith. Gary and Joyce Anderson taught me that the life of a missionary is never over, just changing countries and customs and people. Dave and Alice Parrish taught me that when life on the mission field is over, it really isn’t over, like the Anderson’s they came back to America to keep working with students and preaching and teaching and impacting lives for Jesus.
Mark Carlton and Eric Wait are two pastors that I have also learned many things from as they preached or taught Sunday School. They are both knowledgeable men about the Bible and have shared their knowledge not only with me but with all who graced their door. I have learned much from them that has helped me navigate life as a Christian and stay grounded in the midst of many storms. Whether in Bible study with them or from the pulpit their teaching has been a part of me and like a sponge absorbs water I have soaked up their solid Biblical teaching.
One other who taught me much about forgiveness and the value of forgiveness shall remain nameless. But had I never met him I would never have learned the importance of forgiveness in a Christian’s life. Those lessons have been invaluable to me through the years.
Who are the people in your Christian Family Tree? Who has made a tremendous impact upon your life in what they taught you or how they have encouraged you as you walk daily your faith for Jesus? I believe it is good to think of these people, to honor them and to thank them, even if it is in a blog! We also need to think about who are we teaching and encouraging? Whose Christian Family Tree are we impacting for the Lord? We all need each other to learn from and to grow. King Solomon said it best I think:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17, (New International Version).