Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Seminary Stress

This could be a sequel to my "Seminary Sanctification" post awhile ago. At that point and time the difficult part of the process was the time leading up to the decision of where to go to grad school. Well, that difficulty has passed. I chose Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It came down to the fact that it's a good school with good profs. It is a manageable distance from home (GR). And they were willing to take off 18-22 credits off my degree because of classes I took at Moody.

The decision making itself was not that bad. In fact it was a little fun. You'd have to understand how much I love signing up for classes though. I made a habit of signing up my friends for their classes while at Moody. :)

After picking the school, finding a place on-campus to live, picking my classes... the real stress came. It manifested itself in 3 main ways:

1. Money- After paying for only room and board for 3.5 years at Moody, all of a sudden I started caring a lot more about how many credits I was taking when it costs almost $700 a credit...

2. Job- This is related to the money. I have developed a talent for not being very good at the job searching process. I got lucky at Moody when a friend hooked me up with a job on Dish Crew. With the costs as high as they are I'll need a more substantial job than that anyways.

3. Hebrew- Still related to the money issue, I'd like to be able to test out of the first 2 semesters of Hebrew. My problem is that I picked up my book yesterday for the first time since Spring 2010... and I don't remember nearly as much as I thought I would. The test is worth $3500 in credits I wouldn't have to take so I immediately feel the pressure.

All of this struck me as I was trying to fall asleep last night. I don't recommending thinking about such things as a way to fall asleep. I didn't sleep well. I woke up with a headache. I sit with a general sense of uneasiness that I did not have before. "Did I pick the right school?" "Should I even be going to grad school?" "Did I really consider the questions that Kevin DeYoung posed about going to seminary? ( "

Do I have the answers to these questions? No.

I do have two things that bring me comfort in a sea of uncertainty:

1. Proverbs 16:1 (NLT) "We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer." I trust because of all of the comparing I've done and my passion to know God's Word at a deeper level to be able to more capably teach students that Trinity was not a bad choice. I was just talking to a friend about living life planless vs. planned out. The truth is that in both cases, though a plan may provide momentary comfort, there is no telling what the future holds. God, the Ordainer of all things, the One who holds the World in His hands, the Director of all my steps, does know that future. It may very well not turn out the way I thought but I will not turn out differently than God has determined.

2. I'm not afraid to fail. Well, actually I am but if I can set the mentality that Trinity is the right, wise choice and it doesn't work out. If I can't pay for more than one semester... if I do my very best and yet the door still closes, I can trust that God is still working in that to direct my path. That doesn't mean I can be irresponsible with my money but since going to Trinity this semester seems to be the wisest choice, I will trust that it is the right one until it is evident that it is the wrong one.

So, if you think of it, pray that I would not succumb to the stress of the "what ifs" or the things that I cannot control. Pray that I would be wise with the resources that God has given me. Pray that I would find my comfort in God's sovereignty. Pray that I would be brave enough to fail, if that's how God chooses to direct my steps.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Privilege of Ministry

So, this isn't original though. Not that I'm sure there really is much actual original thought out there. This though is more of a reflection. I went to go visit a friend and his family at his church on Sunday and the Pastor's sermon got me thinking about this. I'll edit this and post the link to the sermon when they put it up. It was good. He's British. That's the easiest way to establish immediate credibility with an audience.

I wonder if my Michigan, occasionally mistaken for Canadian by those from the South, accent would establish credibility in the UK?

The passage he was speaking about was Acts 9:32-10:26. It's an insanely long passage. Normally, I think there should be rules about length of passages but he developed it well enough that it was ok.

He started out talking about how Peter was the focus of attention for most of the beginning of Acts and then he kind of disappears while we see Stephen, Phillip and Saul. But now in Acts 9:32, the hero returns and heals some people and then goes and reaches Cornelius with the Gospel. In his very British delivery and description in cinematic terms I started to imagine my favorite show of the 21st century, LOST. There were some weeks that certain characters would disappear but you knew when you saw them again that something good was going to happen. Or you realized that the writers had forgotten about them for awhile.

The pastor had me hook, line and sinker in this story of Peter returning to the story to go out and expand his territory of ministry. Then, he said that wasn't how the story was at all.

Peter wasn't traveling around Judea as part of his expanding celebrity or even greater ministry. He was simply doing and confirming to others to do what had already been done. His raising of the dead girl named Tabatha 9:36 forces you to think of Jesus' raising of the young girl he calls damsel, but more specifically, Talitha in Mark 5:41.

If I'm losing you, hang on for just a bit...

The difference was that Peter raises the girl in the name of Jesus Christ while Jesus raised the girl in His Own Name. Peter goes on to receive a vision telling him to go reach Gentiles. He has to be told 3 times in order to convince him of it. Phillip has already reached out to the Ethiopian at this point. Peter isn't doing anything new. He is simply part of a larger story.

That story is Jesus'.

The ministry is Jesus'.

When Peter tells Cornelius in Acts 10:26 not to bow to him because he's only a man, he's speaking from the experience of someone who has failed enough to know that it isn't his ministry.

We are simply the undeserving tools that Christ has for some reason decided to use to bring people in contact with Him. It's that contact with Him that changes everything, we don't do anything. Anything.



It's so easy to look at success of a ministry and see our own efforts. The truth is that Jesus Christ was the only one to ever heal in His own name. He was the only one to forgive sins in His name. He was the only one to ever save anyone.

In an age where celebrity pastors are valued and megachurches are envied, we need to remember that we are simply men (and women) that at our very best are being used by Christ to do His ministry.

If we ever got a glimpse of what that really means, the sure privilege of it would drive us into introducing people to Christ every chance we could.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Seminary Sanctification

So, I'm in the final stages of choosing where to go to grad school/seminary for the Fall. Yes, yes, I know... it is June 7th. Yes, I know, I probably should have been at this point last December when there were more scholarships available. Yes, that would have given me time to go and look for places to live instead of hoping that there will be on-campus housing available. Yes, I would have had more time to realistically plan myself out financially instead of hoping and praying that the money will be there.

Yes, I know all of these things... but I wouldn't change it.

I know that's much easier to say when you can't change it.

Even if I found a flux capacitor on eBay, I'd still go down this road though.

It's really tempting to treat the process of choosing a grad school like LeBron James' "Decision"... especially when you have a few choices. Believe me, I've been humbled enough by times when I was turned down by people to really appreciate acceptance. Even then, it's so easy to feel like you deserve it. It's so easy to feel like you're something special.

It's so easy to forget God.

In the midst of a situation where it is so easy to think highly of myself and to be narcissistic, it takes something large to move my attention off of myself. That's where all of this stress comes in. That's where the fear comes in. Will I choose the right school? Will I find somewhere to live? Will I be able to build relationships when I get there? Should I just pick a school where there are already people I know living in the area?  How will I pay for this? Did I wait too long to be making a good choice?

I look to my left and I see pride.

I look to my right and I see fear.

If I really open my eyes though... I'll be able to see that God is leading me through this.

God can and will take my mistakes, my lack of forethought, my immaturity and use them to cause me to follow Him closer. All of the unknowns keep me from remaining prideful. The blessings of having the opportunity of a few choices in where to go act as a reminder that God is indeed at work in me. God is working through my pride and through my fear to see Him more clearly.

I'm still not sure where I'll be in the Fall.

I do know, however, Who will be there with me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest post on The Couch: Living with Technology

Hey, this is my blog. I'm not leaving.

I am also not quite so exclusive. Just not ready to take that step yet.

I posted a blog called "Living with Technology" on a blog called The Couch that I'll be occasionally contributing to along with some friends from Moody.

I could post it here but that would defeat the purpose of posting it there.

So, just go check it out.