Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Doing the Math

I've decided that financial well-being comes from the ability to multiply. And I also believe that American culture is based on most people's inability or unwillingness to multiply. A few examples come to mind.

Most of us would be happy to get an extra $1500 each year. If you pack your lunch instead of spending $8/day for lunch, you would likely save around that.

Going out for a $30 dinner is not particularly exorbitant. But if you do it twice a week and cut it down to once a week you will save another $1500.

The one that gets me the most is gourmet coffee. Starbucks is the easy target, but any cafe with mochas/lattes/etc will do. We now proudly serve Starbucks coffee in our cafeteria. A large costs $1.69 with tax. Someone who gets one every day and works 20 days/month will spend $33.80/month on coffee. We spend $35/month to support an orphan in Uganda.

I realize that this may sound proud, but it's one way were I feel like we're making a difference. $30 of that $35 comes from what was Amanda's allowance. $30 of what was my allowance goes towards our church's capital campaign. The point is that it seems like these things are more worthwhile than drinking really good coffee or eating nice meals.

And, to be fair, we plan on going out for a meal that will likely cost somewhere around $85-$100 tomorrow. Lily is going to have a sleepover with her cousin and we have two nights without her. I'm taking this opportunity to take my wife out on a date. This will be our Valentine's meal, albeit a bit early. I don't think that there's anything wrong with a nice meal here and there, but let's make sure that we take care of those who need help, right?

James 1:27 ESV
(27) Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Changing Course

I've had to do some self-reflection lately about the future of my career in ministry. When I announced my plans to get a MDiv I got a lot of support, but I also got some sideways looks. The sense I got from most people was, "I know you love Jesus and want to be in ministry, but are you sure you want to go into pastoral ministry?". The problem is people.

I am starting to feel more compassion for people. I do want to help them. But I also know that if I go into pastoral ministry I will find myself doing a lot of things that I don't like doing. For example, I would have to go out of my way each Sunday to make a conscious effort to find people I don't know and connect with them. I could do that and be OK at it, but I also think that would drain me. I can't imagine how many little meetings, potlucks, dinners, etc I'd have to go to.

The point is that I am growing to have more of a heart for people, but I don't get energized by spending all my time around people. I am much more on the "introvert" side of the Myers-Briggs test, for what that's worth. No matter how you label it, I can't deny that is true of me.

So what to do? I remember even when I was stuck in habitual sin I thought about becoming a professor. That once again seems like a good option for me. It would be cool to earn a ThD and then come back to teach at Shepherds, for example.

The "good" news is that I still have a LONG way to go before I have to make any final decisions. I think I should worry more about getting my 1 Corinthians 5:5 validation paper written first.

Feeling Buzzy

I was catching up on my local news and came across this article . As a former caffeine user/abuser, this just makes me sick. I'm glad that there was some acknowledgment of the fact that our country is already sleeping too little (me included), overweight, and anxious. How will a caffeinated donut help that?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Feeling Tense

Last night we learned our last tense in the Indicative mood. I realize that sounds a bit esoteric, but it is something of a milestone. It means that we now have the tools to understand most verbs in the New Testament. When people ask me about learning Greek I relate it to learning a musical instrument. Keep at it and eventually you will realize that you know a few things.

On another ministry note, I'm considering a change of plans. I still have a lot of time, but I may take Amanda up on the suggestion to pursue a ThD. It might make more sense for me to be an academic than to work with people. As I consider going to various functions, etc, I realize that probably isn't for me. So maybe this will give me the best of both worlds.

I should probably see how I do on my 1 Corinthians validation papers first. I've got to spend some time in the library on Saturday. I want to get this thing done!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Not Quite as Excited

I remember the excitement I had when I started the fall semester at seminary. I guess that the new car smell has worn off a little bit. Sometimes I forget to be excited by the fact that I will be able to more or less read New Testament Greek by Easter. I only have a few more verb tenses to learn and then it's on to participles. Perhaps the problem is that it's starting to feel a tad overwhelming. I have what I think is a good study schedule, but now I need to discipline myself to stick with it.

I'm also a bit daunted by the prospect of writing my validation papers for 1 Corinthians. I was excited about this a week ago and eager to dive into the research. But now I just want to do comfortable stuff like the play my guitar.

This all goes to show that the flesh really is weak. And right now I'm not sure how willing the spirit is either. But I do know that I made a commitment and that is not something that I take lightly.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Feeling Like a Student

Last Saturday had what I considered to be perfect weather. The sky was a crystal-clear Carolina blue. There were a few not quite puffy, but not quite wispy clouds. The temperature was in the mid to high 60s. It was ideal weather for sitting outside and reading, taking a walk, lying in a hammock, having a picnic, or just about anything except snow skiing. So what did I do with this glorious day? I spent it in a library working on my paragraph summary of 1 Corinthians. Not only was I in a library, but it was dark in the library because someone had to do electrical maintenance in the building. I sat at a desk by the window so I'd have enough light to do what I needed to do.

This experience made me feel more like a student than I have before. I went into this seminary experience knowing that there would be some sacrifice. I'm pretty good at making myself into a martyr, but this one was kind of tough. It just felt like a shame to be inside. The good news is that I did get to eat my lunch outside.

My class has given me new insights into what Biblical scholarship is all about. I thought that it was pretty cool to read John Piper. Now I'm learning that his stuff is not really that scholarly. He is a pastor and he writes for people, as he should. I don't doubt that he could be very scholarly, but I don't think of his stuff as such anymore. I'm learning about all of these journals where men spend years fighting with each other over the proper interpretation of some passage. I need to read this stuff so that I can do my validation papers. My professor keeps making the point that pastors need to be readers so that they know what is out there and can form the best conclusions. The bibliographies in his notes have blown me away with the amount that he's read. I am confident that he has forgotten more than I currently know. He's given me some insight into where I need to be.

This of course begs the application question -- "so what?" What am I going to do with this newfound revelation? I see the need to spend more time reading. I need to practice reading quickly and with comprehension. I need to start consuming books. I understand that Charles Spurgeon read "five serious books a week". I don't know if I'll do that, but one every other week should be doable if I can increase my speed. Whatever I do, I need to do more than what I am doing if I am to be well-read and well-rounded as a pastor.

But I am reminded of one very important truth -- "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." At the end of the day I need to love people. But I also need to be able to give them sound answers for the tough questions.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Sweet Taste of Victory

As any reader of my blog knows, I graduated from The Ohio State University. I've seen some good football teams since 1991. And I've seen many disappointments. Last night was a crushing disappointment when OSU just went into the tank on the big stage. Seeing them get manhandled like that felt like a punch in the stomach. I do, however, notice that the sun still came up today.

Why the title of this post? As I go through my SCF emails I see so many stories of victory. There is the story of Bernie who restarted The Lord's Table because he wasn't "getting it" and humbly submitted to my instruction to restart. Last night he went out for pizza with his wife and left 2 slices for today's lunch. There is the story of John who has been walking in newfound freedom for weeks and is just loving it. There is the story of a guy who had struggles with pornography and has enjoyed over 2 weeks of freedom from its pull.

I've been praying lately for God to soften my heart about these stories. I think that it's happening. I feel that excitement in my chest that I used to get. It's so wonderful to see how God is changing lives and it's a real privilege to be a part of it. He doesn't need me for anything, but He chose to allow me to be a part of this. What an honor!

This gives me the proper perspective. And I suspect that if I talked to Jim Tressel he would agree.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Fresh Perspective

I've now had two days of my course on 1 Corinthians. The professor is a serious academician. He's not very funny or particularly dynamic, but he is clearly extremely knowledgeable about the material. And he certainly is not bad to listen to at all. I've learned a few things so far that apply to Bible reading in general.

One is that there are 3 levels of information presentation in the Bible. One is direct, such as the Ten Commandments (though the Sabbath is a bit fuzzy for us as New Covenant Saints). The next is implied, such as the Trinity. Finally, there is the area of creative constructs such as the argument between Calvinism and Arminianism. Unfortunately, we get into problems when we confuse the latter with direct commands. This is where all kinds of divisions start and we get ourselves into trouble with direct commands to have unity in the Spirit.

I've also learned quite a bit about hermeneutics. I always knew that you should take every book in the context of the audience. I always knew that you should inspect the type of writing (epistle, law, poetry, history, prophecy). But I don't think I ever really got my arms around what that means. I don't claim to have that now, but I do know that I know much less about the Bible than I thought I did.

I'm pretty excited to see what I will learn in this course. I'm not so excited about the schedule though. I'm going to be slammed all weekend with things to do. We are supposed to compare our paragraph summaries with scholarly commentaries, but it's hard to see how we will be able to get that done by Monday unless we get access to the library at a time when it's usually not open. It's pretty easy to get stressed now. Stupid work wasting my time...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I finally did it. I finished the massive 775 page tome that we are to read on 1 Corinthians. Now, to be honest, I don't think that I read every word carefully. But I think I have a general idea of what the author had to say about each topic. I couldn't recite it all, but it will be somewhat familiar to me when I hear it in class, I think.

I think I'm starting to get the hang of the reading we need to do for seminary. In the past I read too carefully and sub-vocalized every letter. This is obviously not going to work when a professor asks us to read 1500 pages for a class. Perhaps this way I also will be able to glean more out of the books and articles I use for my papers. I have a classmate who said that he read all the books that he used for his paper. I don't think it's realistic to do that in much detail, but I can see how "power skimming" can be used to great effect when I have to get through a lot of information in a hurry.

I need to keep this up so that I don't lose the knack of doing it. I really got better at it on Saturday and I keep getting faster and faster as the days go by. It feels like I'm working out my "reading muscle".

I realize that this is probably old news for any liberal arts majors out there. But for an engineer like me it's something of an epiphany. I just had to share my joy at finishing.