Dear Seminarian: Advice to Married Seminary Students

Editor’s Note: This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of...

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Dear Seminarian: Attending Bible College or Seminary Online

Editor’s Note: This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of...

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Dear Seminarian: Pursue Purity

Editor’s Note: This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of...

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Dear Seminarian: Grow in Passion for God’s Word

Editor’s Note: This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of...

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Dear Seminarian: Love God’s People and His Church

Editor’s Note: This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of...

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Biblically Salty Speech

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in The Gospel and the Christian Life

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)

Some people are known for speaking their mind. They like to say it like it is. No hemming, no strings. They are known for not having a filter.

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The Bible has a category for this kind of lifestyle.

Foolishness.

It is detrimental to other people—and it is a roundabout way to hitting the self-destruct button.

Wisdom puts a filter over our mouths. Some things just don’t need to be said. But if we are known for being the kind of people who “say what we think,” we will not be the kind of people that commend the wisdom of God.

We are to always be honest. We are to always be truthful. And we are to always seek after God’s wisdom for our lives.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

Rather than blurting out our words, the Scriptures call for a craftsmanship to our speech.

Prov. 25:11 is giving is a wonderful image. Imagine a hunk of gold crafted into a beautiful cluster of apples. And now imagine those pristine apples of gold, set, not in hay, or on a nice black cloth, but in silver. It’s impressive craftsmanship. It’s valuable. It’s desirable.

The message, the medium, and the manner all matter.

“The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”(Proverbs 16:21)

Sweet speech doesn’t mean we should speak a little ol’ lady from Georgia. Wisdom calls us to communicate in a helpful manner, with speech that is not bitter, off-putting, or yucky. This is effective teaching. It’s thoughtful, crafted, and meant to serve the hearer. It’s seasoned with grace. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Sweet and salty. We know this a divine combo!

Let’s commend God’s grace to one another. Always. Let’s speak of grace. And let’s speak like Grace, Jesus himself, has spoken for us. We are his.

Stay salty, friends.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

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Working and the Image of God

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in The Gospel and the Christian Life

The Daily Grind

The sound of the rainforest draws me out of my sleep. It’s actually synthetic sound coming from an app on my smartphone. It’s claim to fame is that it slowly wakes you up so that you don’t crash out of your sleep cycle into the daily grind. More gradual, less tired supposedly.

At 5:20 a.m., I’m always tired. I envy coffee drinkers. The coffee commercials look so pleasant and make it seem so delicious. But I can’t get past the bitterness. I scrounge a quick bite to eat. I zombie walk into the shower and get ready in the dark as my family continues to sleep.

I’m off to work. Eight hours of monotony. I answer phone calls and fix broken technology. I repeat stock phrases thirty plus times a day. I try to make connections with people I’ll never see. I’ve been working this similar routine for almost nine years.

For the first few years, I struggled finding value in my seemingly mundane tasks. If I’m honest, I loathed going to work a lot of days. I know I’m not alone because life in a call center creates camaraderie and I’ve talked to countless people who share these feelings in and out of my industry.

Jesus Works

The gospel starts from the very first pages of the Scripture. That truth changes the way you and I work in the marketplace and worship in the mundane of everyday life.

Most churches talk very little about work. They start their gospel presentation with the fall: “We are rotten to the core and in need of redemption” (Gen 3). If they do touch Genesis 1 and 2, it’s usually to discuss creation and evolution. We treat “in the beginning” as if Jesus wasn’t around yet. We function as modalists.

Paul tells a different story, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16).

John tells the same story, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:1-5).

This thread of Christological creation isn’t some gnostic truth. Paul elsewhere says we were “chose . . . in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) and John calls Jesus, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8 KJV). Matthew reports Jesus’s words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). Peter says, Jesus “was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Pt 1:20). Paul admonishes the Corinthians, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’” (2 Cor 4:6).

From the first words of Scripture “In the beginning, God” to the final curse of Revelation, the Holy Spirit shines a spotlight on the work of Jesus Christ. He isn’t hidden. And finding Jesus in the beginning completely transforms our understanding of the original creative mandate and propels our purpose in working.

Working with Purpose

First, Scripture teaches Jesus actively works from before the foundation of the world and in the world now. He is choosing, creating, and founding. He is holding all things together. He is advocating for us on his throne. When he creates man, it’s no surprise he says, “‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion . . . . ’ And God said to ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion’” (Gen 1:26, 28). Part of our createdness, built in the very fabric of who we are as humans made in God’s image, is the necessity of dominion and work.

God works. We work. Jesus creates. We create. We are sub-creators to his divine creative masterpiece, but we still image God when we work. There’s intrinsic value in working because it’s connected with who God made us to be. Part of Adam’s task was tending the garden and naming animals. That could be mundane and routine, but, before the fall, Adam obeyed God and worked as his ambassador and found meaning in doing so. When we work in the workplace, we are also obeying this creative instinct to image God. Jesus Christ is the perfect image of God and the prototype of glorified humanity. We see that image clearly when we follow his lead in working.

Second, Scripture teaches this image of God is found in every human equally. In The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis says, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. . . . There are no ordinary people.” This fundamentally changes the way we work and the way we treat others who we work with and who may do jobs we might be tempted to turn our nose down at.

Each of those people when working and doing their job with excellence are, even if dimly, reflecting the original image of God. They are not ordinary. They are humans who were made very good. For those who lay hold of the promises found in Jesus Christ and believe, this image is even more visible (“transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” as Paul says). We should appreciate and encourage those who work skillfully. We should remind each other we are a picture of Jesus Christ who works. He has been working from the beginning, and will not stop working until he’s brought us all the way home. That leads into my next point.

Fourth, Scripture teaches our work now reminds of the work of Jesus Christ for us. As noted earlier, the Holy Spirit inspired many allusions and direct references to creation and many of these directly point us to our spiritual redemption. The image of light and darkness is found throughout the Gospel of John. John also talks about the new birth (John 3). Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 compares God’s original divine fiat with his raising us from death to life. He says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’” (2 Cor 4:6). As we work, we must not forget Christ’s work for us. It’s a daily gospel reminder in the daily grind of our work.

Fifth, Scripture teaches we please God. Jesus’s ministry starts with his baptism and God the Father proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). When regenerated by the Spirit, chosen by the Father, and redeemed by Jesus, we are united to Jesus Christ. All the promises and blessings found in him are ours. Jesus pleases the Father and so we please the Father. A robust understanding of common grace, also, suggests when we work well and create excellently it pleases Him in as far we reflect his image well. This work isn’t salvific in any way, but it’s valuable nonetheless.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner, says, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Meditate on that truth when your alarm wakes you up in the morning or when you repeat the same task for the hundredth time at your job remind yourself: “God delights in me when I work.” Feel his pleasure. Repeat, “When I ______, I feel his pleasure.” That’s not an insignificant truth.

Finally, Scripture teaches work will not always be laborious. Before the fall, the creation didn’t war against us as we created, tended, and worked.  After the fall, God curses the ground and work becomes difficult. Paul says, “the whole creation has been groaning” as it waits for its full redemption (Rom 8:22). We are waiting for the new heavens and new earth–when God will makes all things right. We will be glorified and the earth will be redeemed from its sorrows. The reality of our ultimate rest in Jesus Christ doesn’t remove work. Jesus redeems work. The end of the story is an earthy ending. We live on the new earth in his eternal kingdom and worship God in all we do (Matt 5:5, 25:34).

We struggle now in the daily grind of the dirty now and now, but we look forward to the redeemed not yet of the new creation. So work well now. Struggle. Labor. Toil. Create. Do it all with excellence, purpose, and hope. But find rest in Jesus Christ in the not yet, while eagerly longing for the redemption of our bodies and this world. He will return and he will make all things new.

This post was first posted at CBMW and is posted here with their permission.

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Dear Seminarian: Advice to Married Seminary Students

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Dear Seminarian

Dear Seminarian: Advice to Married Seminary Students
Editor’s Note:

This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of this series is to help you grow in the grace of God while you are preparing for, while you are attending and after you graduate from seminary.

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seminary 300x125 Dear Seminarian: Advice to Married Seminary StudentsWhen I arrived at seminary I was excited. I looked forward to the learning and growth. I asked my pastor and college professors for advice on making it as successful as possible. If there is one thing I learned about seminary, during seminary, it is that despite the amount of advice you will receive no one person can give it all and there will still be things missing in a multitude of counselors.

I went to seminary married and with a six month old child so my experiences are shaped by that family dynamic. Before I got married I had dreams of attending seminary to get my M.Div. in three years – get in, get out and either get into a church or get another degree. In the providence of God this is not how it happened. I was a student who was blessed with a family and I had to adjust my expectations accordingly.

The advice that follows is shaped by my experiences. I want to offer some advice specifically to married students who may or may not have children. Some of this advice I learned in retrospect and some of it I learned before going into seminary. I am going to assume that you are called to ministry and the desire for seminary is a part of the process of getting there. Which means I am also assuming you have already prayed about it, sought wise council and have the financial means of getting and staying there.

First, make sure you and your wife agree on going to seminary. As the husband you may want to go to seminary but, like all major decisions a couple makes, you need the input of your wife. You do NOT want to go to seminary dragging your wife behind you. The last thing your marriage needs (especially if you have recently married) is your wife resenting you for forcing her to go to seminary. It will most likely destroy your marriage during or soon after you finish. You don’t want to drag that into your first ministry because it may be your last.

Listen to her reasons for saying no. Maybe she feels uncertain about some things that you need more time to figure out, and, having figured them out, she will be willing to go. If you have kids you NEED to make sure you can support the family first and then school second. It is possible that you may both agree to go to seminary and then a year into it your wife says it’s not working, we need to reevaluate. Maybe you have your first child there and your wife does not work anymore. A child will mean an increase in financial costs and if you lose the second income that increase will hit the pocket even more. Listen to your wife before you go and while you are there. Maybe you need to sit out a semester. Maybe you need to step out altogether, get into a ministry and then finish school while in ministry. Your marriage is worth more than your education.

Second, find a local church and get involved together. You will want to find some kind of ministry that you can both do together. Maybe it is teaching a Sunday school class or leading a nursing home service. This will give you something to do together that is local church centered. It will also enable you to see how you work together in ministry and give you a safe place to work out any kinks. Just like with your marriage, there are things about doing ministry together that you cannot know until you are doing it together. You are preparing for a lifetime of ministry service together and seminary is a great time to learn this together in a local church.

Third, find someone who can give you regular marriage advice and counseling. Most seminaries require students to have a mentor during your education. This person is either your local church pastor or one of your teachers. If you are married, this mentorship relationship should include marriage counseling. Like college life, seminary life is not normal living conditions and will have with it its own set of challenges that can wear on a family in ways that it will not others. You need to have someone you can both sit down with and be asked questions about your marriage. They will know things to ask that you are not even thinking of. It is a good idea to have someone your wife can call up anytime and just talk to about her frustrations or just get some parenting advice from. I cannot stress how important this is. You will get to points in your marriage when one of you wants to go to someone for help. Having someone already agreed upon will make it much easier to make that phone call or surprise visit at church or home.

Fourth, make sure you develop friendships with other students with families. Seminary is a place where you will make a lot of friendships, some of which will last long after you graduate. For families, especially the wife, it is important that you have friendships with other families that are in seminary. This will enable the wife to have other seminary wives with which she can more closely relate and it will help to keep the whole family grounded.

Fifth, make time for family. I realize that some will disagree with me on this but if you have kids and have to work a full-time job while in school DO NOT try to finish your degree in the same time as a single student. Unless you are independently wealthy from a first career, and don’t have to work, or have parents who are going to pay for the whole thing (which is just about no one), you will not have enough time or money to finish a 36 hour M.A in one year or a 96 hour M.Div. in three years and it not negatively affect your family in an unnecessary way. I am not saying that your seminary experience needs to be trial-free. I am saying that your family comes first. You will develop habits in seminary that you will carry into ministry so make sure they are good habits. Maybe you take another two years to finish your M.Div. or you take as many online classes as possible so you can be home more or take mid-term classes so there is less time away from home during the semester.

Some people will say that when your kids are younger it is easier to be in school more because they will not remember it. But just because younger kids cannot verbally express the hurt from your absence as well as a teen can, does not mean there will not be long term effects on your constant absence. If the only time you see your kids is the weekend because during the week you go to class and then work and don’t get home until after the kids are in bed, that is a problem and it will be very easy to carry this habit into ministry because you are so used to doing it.

Additionally, your wife is missing out on time with you. Your kids need to see both of you together and you need to spend time with your kids together. You can always take longer to finish school but you cannot get back the time you did not have with your family. It can take a long time to heal the wounds your absence have made. You don’t want to be the father who has to be reintroduced to his kids after graduation because you were so absent. God does not excuse you from your role in your family (a command) just because you are preparing for ministry in seminary (something that is optional).

Finally, make sure you have support back home. First, you want to make sure the local church you are leaving (if you are moving away) will be supporting you in some way. Make sure to have a network of people praying for you regularly. If possible, it is nice to have the church support you financially in some way. Second, you want to make sure your family is supporting you. While your parents don’t have to be in agreement with you going to seminary (there can be a number of reasons for this, both good and bad), it is comforting to know that they support your decision to go to seminary. Related to the first piece of advice, it may be that one concern your wife has with going to seminary is that there will be no relatives where you are considering going. Maybe you (the husband) need to be open to some other options so that you can be within reasonable driving distance to one of your parents or siblings. Be flexible so that you can ensure you are meeting your wife’s needs and giving her more security about your decision. Sometimes it can be such a relief to let your wife go to her parents for a long weekend with the kids or even leave them with you so she can have some time to herself and recharge before or after a new semester.

This advice is by no means exhaustive. As I said, it is limited to my own experiences and advice that was given to me. I do trust that it will be of help to those of you with families that are considering seminary. I pray this advice hits some of you before you enter seminary and you make adjustments. For others, this may have touched on something you are already dealing with and either you could not put a finger on it or just need a nudge in the right direction. Pray, talk to your spouse, seek counsel and make changes.

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