May 30, 2010
When my wife and I were newly married, we were advised to occasionally evaluate our relationship. Asking the questions, “How are we doing?” and “How can I love you more?” are great ways of doing so.
I’ve been doing the same lately in my times of prayer with God. I’ve been asking, “Jesus, do I really love you? How can I love you more?”
I think there are several reasons for doing so. We see several examples in Scripture of those whose love grew cold. I think of the Ephesian church in the book of Revelation, a church which had a reputation for being alive and did all sorts of good things, but had lost their first love. In other words, they looked good outwardly, but inwardly had forgotten what it was all about.
I think also of the parable of the soils, particularly of the third soil. These plants were growing, were beginning to form fruit, but were choked by thorns–the worries of this life, the pleasure of the world, the desire for other things. Personally, these three areas are by far the biggest dangers to my love for the Lord. Is anything choking out that love?
Then, there’s those who think they love the Lord, but who really just love the benefits that he affords. They serve him to get the praise of men, respect and reputation, a profitable occupation.
So, do I really love Jesus? How can my love for him grow? 1 John is helpful here, saying “We love him, because he first loved us.” This verse, I think, is not just saying that we begin to love Jesus but continue loving him because of his love. In other words, his love initiates and establishes the grounds for our love, and then continues to fuel it. So then, as I reflect on his great love, my love will be nourished. This great savior died for me, will never leave me, wants to spend the rest of eternity with me, and has lavished on me all of his very best. Yes, as I reflect and worship and praise him for such a love, I find my own love increasing.
May 30, 2010
May 27, 2010
Well, I’m on my way back to work this morning. Work will be quite different this week from usual. Today I will take a brief pause and run into Wake Forest for graduation practice. Tomorrow they have given me the day off, although I do have to work on Saturday.
We will have a good amount of company here, including siblings and parents. I asked everyone if they would be alright with a simple cookout at our house. Hard to beat the ol’ grill.
It will be a weird feeling at work not to have to study in every spare minute I get.
May 26, 2010
Who said it (in German):
The question of truth, with which theology is concerned throughout, is the question as to the agreement between the language about God peculiar to the Church and the essence of the Church. The criterion of Christian language, in past and future as well as at the present time, is thus the essence of the church, which is Jesus Christ, God in his gracious approach to man in revelation and reconciliation. Has Christian language its source in Him? Does it lead to Him? Does it conform to Him?
May 25, 2010
May 24, 2010
This brief article shows that large businesses now recognize the value of overseas experience and are seeking to hire top executives who have lived at least two years in a foreign setting. The article concludes,
So much of what’s learned abroad concerns cultural differences. The trend toward international experience may signal how much companies now value employees who understand the differences. ‘You have to have people who have an understanding that people can look at the same picture and see different things.’
May 24, 2010
This is part 4 of the series “Mastering your Theological Education” (click here for parts 1-3).
For most students, it is not even a question of “Should I work?” but rather, “How much should I work?” and “What kind of work should I find?” This aspect can be one of the most challenging for students, who must somehow work to pay for their education and support their families, while also finding time for their schooling.
My first piece of advice is that you work as much as you can while you’re a student. There is nothing wrong with lots of work and busyness. The more you work while you’re a student, the less likely you are to have to take out school loans. And staying debt free should be your goal while you’re a student. Almost every semester during my time as an M.Div student, my job would offer me the opportunity to work overtime–usually 80 hour weeks. I accepted the offer every time, even though doing so meant missing a whole week of classes. Don’t worry, you’ll find a way to make up your school work.
Hard work while you’re a student trains you for life. Let’s face it, life only gets busier. If you can learn to balance school and work now, you will be better prepared to juggle your responsibilities in the future.
Hard work helps you stay on track as a student, be organized, and make the most of your time. As you work, you will be forced to plan your time. You will shun anything that might threaten to be a time waster.
Those getting a theological education often wonder whether they should seek secular employment or a pastoral position. In my experience, too many jump at the chance to be a pastor without considering the other possibilities. Even if you plan on serving as a pastor the rest of your life, there are several benefits to working a secular job while in school.
First, chances are strong that while you’re a student, you’ll be wrestling through many issues, including Ecclesiology–the doctrine of the church. Working at a secular job will allow you to be more objective and open-minded to what you are learning. Let’s face it, if what you learn in school seems to point out some errors in the way things are done at your local church, and this directly affects your job, you may be quick to justify your own practices and excuse away Scripture. Working a secular job means you will therefore be able to consider both sides more reasonably.
Second, working a secular job will allow you to relate better with those you plan on shepherding one day. Sadly, many pastors become disconnected with the “real world” and seems to live in a quasi “church world.” You know what I’m talking about, the sermons become all about “getting more involved in church,” “giving more to the church,” and on and on. Allowing yourself time to work in a secular job will help you connect better with those you plan on serving and remain down to earth. You will know what it’s like to go to work 40+ hours a week and do a job that you often do not enjoy. You will know the struggles of modeling a Christ-like love to your boss and the temptations to gossip with employees. You will know how hard it can be to drag yourself to church at the end of a long week.
Third, working in a secular job will allow you to observe what goes on in many churches from “the other side of the pulpit.” Think about it, what is it like from the pews? What is it like to come and not really be an integral part, or in the lime-light? Give yourself some time to step down–not just for a week or two–sit among the pews, and really take a long, hard look.
Perhaps one final benefit, especially for you men out there, to working while you’re a student, is the message it communicates to your wife. By doing so, you communicate that will do everything you can to provide. Many theological students rely on the wife’s income, and she becomes the primary bread-winner. This is perfectly understandable considering the circumstances. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to try avoiding this practice. Begin your married life striving for the husband to be the primary provider, and continue this as much as possible, even while a student. Otherwise, exceptions made can then extend beyond the school years.
In the end, your work habits are crucial to your education. Without an income, you will not be able to fund your schooling. Where you choose to find a job will also affect what you “get out of” school. You will not, I think, regret prayerfully considering secular employment while mastering your theological education. Who knows, maybe the lessons you learn as a “layman” may be just as valuable as those in the classroom.
May 22, 2010
Reading one of Arthur Sido‘s masterfully written essays has given me something to chew on this week. In his essay, Arthur points out some flawed tradition which says that mature Christianity is no more than shuffling in and out of church, dropping a tithe envelope, and faithfully listening to sermons year after year. Rather than being the mark of mature Christianity, Arthur argues that these things may not even belong to Christianity.
Two points about his essay sparked the most thought. First, after critiquing the faulty view of discipleship, Arthur slightly hints at what may actually be true, biblical discipleship: self-denial, sacrifice, and ministry by all believers. But this is as far as Arthur goes in this post towards a solution.
Secondly, Arthur raises the question of whether true discipleship is ever monotonous, or even boring.
What do you think?
How would you describe radical, biblical discipleship? What does that entail? What traits and habits characterize a mature disciple?
Is there ever a place in one’s walk with the Lord for seeming monotony and boredom?
May 22, 2010
As I follow the tragic news about the oil leak in the gulf, a spiritual application has come to mind.
There is no doubt, the oil leak is an urgent disaster. For one thing, no one seems to know how much oil has already leaked and continues to leak. But what is sure, enough has spilled to tarnish many of the beaches, to ruin the fishing and ocean economies, to kill and pollute scores of fish, birds, and fragile ecosystems. Attempts at containing the disaster have been unsuccessful. The oily slime will most likely inch closer to the Florida keys and then possibly up the east coast. Some even warn about what will happen when hurricane season comes, and all the oil gets churned up.
What catches my attention is that everyone wants to work towards a solution to the problem. And rightly so. How ridiculous would it be in light of the problem if someone were to say, “Oh, what’s the big deal? Why should we worry about an oil leak? Who says we should try to fix it? Shouldn’t we just let nature run its course, or perhaps just let the oil drain until the well is dry?”
Or wouldn’t it be even more foolish if I were to say, “Well I’ve never been to the gulf, the problem is way down there and I’m way up here, so why should I worry about it? It doesn’t affect me? What I can’t see is not my problem.”
No, everyone is scrambling for a solution. Agencies are raising support, hair stylists are donating hair to mop up oil, the government is on the brink of stepping in.
Yet I’m reminded that we have a problem of an infinitely greater magnitude on our hands. We face a problem that doesn’t just touch one little corner of the globe, but one in which the whole world is mired. Millions everyday perish apart from Christ, doomed to eternity in hell. God has given us the rescuing message, and people all around us everyday need to hear it. How tragic, oil is seeping into an ocean. But how utterly unthinkable, that you and I would have the answer for those all around us who are perishing, but not share it. No one dares to sit around and let the oil kill the fish. Would you and I dare refrain from doing what we can to share the gospel?
Just because the cries of the nations are not in the headlines of the papers, just because I can’t hear their perishing pleas, simply because I don’t see them going down, doesn’t mean the issue is not real.
“Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter,
If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’
does not he who tests you know it?
Will he not repay each one
according to what he has done?” (Prov 24:11,12).
May 22, 2010
One of the things I look forward to most each week is a Wednesday night home group meeting–just a bunch of believers getting together in the home, praying for each other, talking about Scripture, and spurring each other on to love and good deeds. This week our discussion was based on Luke 24 where Jesus commissions the disciples.
In the course of our discussion, we talked about what it means to live as missionaries here and now. One shared this thought: “You know, I’ve been on several missions trips. There’s so much prep work and planning that goes into such a trip: raising the funds, all the shots, the packing, the prayer. Then the time for the trip finally comes and you’ve got that long travel time. And when you get ‘there,’ surrounded by strange speech, peculiar smells, weird foods, you know you have one sole purpose for being there–to share the gospel with as many people as possible, making the most of every single minute. After such preparation and anticipation, you’re not about to waste such a trip.”
And for me, this comment really captured the mindset of one who’s on mission. Such a one has a single-mindedness and devotion. Now here’s a thought for you: many other countries are sending over missionaries to the United States. I have been told that Korea alone has sent numerous missionaries to the states. That means that in your very own backyard might be one who’s had all the shots, raised the funds, and is tolerating all of our ” strange speech, peculiar smells, weird foods” for the sake of going and making disciples.
This raises some questions. First, does the fact that other nations see America as needing to be “missionized” concern you? Where and how have we dropped the ball, failing to reach our own country, so that others are having to come and do it? Second, how can one cultivate the zeal and devotion of one who is on mission while living in his own country? Surely the Spirit is not dependent on shots and long plane rides to make us serious about the great commission?
As we asked these questions on Wednesday, everyone admitted that they did not readily know the answer. Surely God wants us to live that way now, but how do I maintain that? What are some ways to do so?