Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Best Thing About Conferences

The best thing about conferences is always the fellowship. Every conference I go to, it doesn't matter which one, I love meeting new people and seeing old friends more than anything else. At the conference this week, I got to do both!

One of the thrills this week was meeting Martin Sauer. We got to think a little about the business program together and ask the question, "Where does the Great Commission fit in? Or is 'fit in' even the right way to be thinking about it?" I think the Great Commission should be infused into everything we do as Christian educators. I think it should be the starting point of all that we do. It should be built into every single one of our courses and all of our programs whatever the program, whatever the course.

I got to see Ms. Penny this week, too. Only a couple of people in the world know how to challenge me the way she does. She won't tell you how to make your class better. She forces you to think about your own course design, asking you "why" you choose to build a course the way you do. And then, right when you drive down a dead-end road and realize "Okay, I don't know," that's when she drops some really awesome suggestions on how to make your class better. Having a veteran educator as one of your resources as a new faculty member is priceless. Penny's always been so helpful. If I shoot her my email, she helps me out. If I have a question, she's there to walk me through it. This week I asked her a really tough question. She gave me her initial response and it was excellent. The next day she came in, having continued to think about it, and she helped me some more. You can't get more blessed than that.

And then there's my man Doug Finkbeiner! I loved getting to spend time with him over the past few days. I even snapped a picture of us throwing up the surfer's salute, or "shaka" sign, and emailed it over to Dave Black, who also knows Doug.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Doing Our Jobs

I received this letter from Dr. Akin and Southeastern today. I loved it! Read the ending below, please. "When the LORD Jesus saves us, we are all called to GO. If if our students aren't doing that, then we aren't doing our jobs." Amen, amen, amen!

Training At The ABHE Life Conference

I'm having a wonderful time at the ABHE Life conference this week. We have another session tomorrow, and it should be great. I'm really enjoying the fellowship more than anything else. You can't beat getting together with godly men and women who are committed to training others in Christian education. Awesome.

Last night after the conference, most of us went to the National Mall to walk around. We grabbed a meal at Bullfeathers by the Capitol. Then we walked down the Mall, all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. I had lots of fun.

Sitting in the conference the past two days, I can't help but think, "Wow, Southeastern really prepared me well." Now, please don't take that the wrong way. I'm not saying I don't have lots and lots to learn. Believe me, I do! What I mean is Southeastern gave me a really solid foundation in education. My life was changed by the education program at Southeastern. I'm forever thankful for the investment Dr. Akin, Dr. Coley, Dr. Black, and the faculty in the Ed.D. program made in my life.

I'm really thankful for Lancaster and Capital too. Investing in your faculty is critical for success. And LBC and CSGS do a great job with continued training. Faculty development is an ongoing process!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Can't We At Least Start There?"

Dave Black wrote something on his blog yesterday that I want to chime in on:
"Occasionally I will be in a church where a pastor-teacher will conclude the service by saying, 'Before we leave, does anyone have a word?' Can't we at least start there? 'Teach me. I am teachable.' Is that your leaders' attitude? It can be. It must be. Some day, praise God, the church will indeed become the community that the New Covenant promises (see Heb. 8), marked by fraternal instruction. Each one will know the Lord directly, 'from the smallest to the greatest' among us. The old, obsolete forms of Judaism will be replaced by new wineskins. This, I argue, is why Paul is so insistent in 1 Cor. 14 that our gatherings be highly participatory. It also explains why he spends so much time instructing us about 'body life.'"
I've been invited to speak at churches that do something rather interesting, too. Discovery Bible Church, for example, in High Point, North Carolina asks whoever teaches from the Word on Sunday in the main gathering to stick around for 30 minutes to an hour to field some questions and allow everyone in the Body an opportunity to speak as the Lord leads them. They can agree, disagree, ask for clarification, ask for specific application, etc.

At Apex Baptist Church, our Life Group (not the main service) would easily yield to the Spirit's leading on any given Sunday. The Spirit could have been leading someone to call for prayer or the brothers and sisters would all raise certain prayer requests during the beginning of our time together, and this would lead the leaders of the group to yield. They'd say, "I think it's really clear what we need to do this morning. The Lord is redirecting us. We need to pray." Occasionally, the same group would start a lesson and before too long someone else was teaching the group. No one felt pressured to control the group or force getting through a PowerPoint. The Spirit was leading the group. It doesn't mean anyone would teach, although anyone potentially could given they were walking in obedience to the Lord (which involves staying in God's Word, not getting a weekly dose of it).

I think it is a place to start. "Before we leave, does anyone have a word?" You can have a word or a message and it not be prophecy. I'm a cessationist. I don't believe the revelatory and sign gifts are exercised in the life of the Body today. And guess what? I still believe that believers can have messages for the greater body at large. I believe that instruction and exhortation are not limited to the pastor who teaches. I think we have to remember that first and foremost "one is your teacher" (Matt. 23:8) and that any abiding believer in Christ who is being taught by the Holy Spirit through studying the Word of God (1 John 2:27; John 17:17) can bring a message to the Body. It doesn't mean that everyone should bring a message every single time the Body gathers. There should be a real sense of surrender and obedience in pursuing this part of the service. It shouldn't be done because the mic or floor is open. It should flow out of the Spirit's leading and direction.

What about doing what Discovery Bible Church does?

What about having a Life Group like we experienced at Apex Baptist Church?

What about asking, "Before we leave, does anyone have a word?"

What do you think?

A Really Fun Day Downtown

My brother came up to visit us this weekend. That's always a great excuse to scoot downtown and take in some sights. I'm not sure how far we walked today, but my legs tell me if I ever want to do it again, I need to be giving them a little more training and fair warning. We went to the building where Lincoln held his second inaugural ball (which is now home to the National Portrait Museum), Baptist Alley (where Booth fled Ford's Theater after shooting Lincoln), the Surratt town home (where the Lincoln conspirators held their meetings), the White House, the fountain across from the National Art Museum, the Jefferson Memorial (where we paddled), etc., etc., etc. What a fun day!!!! I had a blast.

There is a young man that works at the parking garage where I always park my car. He's from Ethiopia. Do me a favor, and be praying for this guy with me. I get to share my faith with him when I see him, and I've been inviting him to dinner or even just to grab a coffee. I'm thinking he doesn't think I'm serious. Pray he'll give me a call and I'll get to spend some more time with him.

What would a day like today be without pictures? We'll never know. Here they are!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Great Commission Or Bust

I just read this snippet from an article by R. Ferris and R. Enlow Jr.
"Commitment to training for Great Commission vocations does not deny that some Bible college graduates may serve God as lay person. The issue is not so much from whom Bible college graduates receive their paychecks as it is from whom they receive their orders and around which biblical mandate ('Creation' or 'Great Commission') they orient their lives. If Bible colleges survive, but fail to enroll, equip, and invigorate a new generation of men and women with a Great Commission calling, urgency, and orientation, then we will have failed miserably."
I really detest the lingo "lay person," but I understand that it's not going away. I also understand that people really want to have a way to identify people who are not pastors or paid Church staff employees. I get it. Still, I shiver when I read it. With that said, I really appreciate the last sentence. We have to make the Great Commission the most important thing when it comes to Christian education. It's a calling everyone in Christ receives. We should all see the urgency in training the nations, near and abroad; after all, people do go to hell if we don't share the gospel . . . Fact. And we ought to view every single one of our classes as Great Commission classes. Our content, disposition, and outcomes should all reflect how our class furthers and deepens our work in the Great Commission.

I found a paragraph or two that I "hear" but I'm just not "feeling," if that makes any sense. Should Bible colleges be geared to only "vocational Christian service?" The authors say expanding the reach of Bible colleges, beyond that of vocational service, is bad
"if such curricular diffusion is grounded upon a definition of ministry which includes every honest human vocation. If we fail to distinguish between callings which support directly the Great Commission mandate ('go and make disciples . . .') and those which serve the creation mandate ('exercise dominion over . . .'), we fail to distinguish ourselves from Christian liberal arts colleges."
So, it's got me thinking. What distinguishes a Bible college from a Christian liberal arts college? I think the answer really flows from (1) what students want from each and (2) where a school is on its historical timeline. First, if students just want the Bible and the school can keep itself sustainable based on the level of student interest (which turns into enrollment), then Bible, Bible, Bible, all day long. Now that doesn't mean the focus has to be on just preparing those who will be serving "full-time" in local churches in the future. I think of Word of Life as one example. A lot of students who go there do end up serving on staffs at local churches. But a lot of them go there (or are sent there) because they need a solid foundation on the Word of God. They then go on to earn degrees at universities and colleges in areas Ferris and Enlow would categorize as "creation" jobs. (Just typing that makes the hair on my arm stand up.) Second, if a school wants to extend the impact it can have on the world with the gospel, I think it will probably consider offering additional programs. It'll transform in healthy ways over time. It'll grow over time. Over time, my guess is, lots of Bible colleges have grown beyond (not out of) just being a Bible school because of the Great Commission.

I don't find it helpful to think about work/ministry using the dichotomy "creation mandate" and "Great-Commission mandate." I think everything you do, if you are a Christian, is supposed to be Great-Commission work. Whatever the job, whatever the field, whatever the industry, whatever the geographical location, whatever the role, whatever the status, whatever it is, that is where we live for the Great Commission.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Thought On Lexical Analysis

I'm reviewing a book on lexical analysis. Just finished typing up my review in fact. Here's one of the tidbits I included:
"Every step in the exegetical process has certain parameters within which students of God’s Word must operate. Dangerous conclusions, well-dressed misinterpretations of Scripture, and 'guaranteed-to-wow-the-crowds' nuggets of lexical pyrite—all of these are impediments to the faithful exposition of biblical texts."
Do you use lexical pyrite?????????

One Of My Favorite Days On The West Coast

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Course Syllabi And Course Worksheets Nearly Complete

I've been working super hard at completing my course syllabi and worksheets for the Fall semester. I'll be teaching BIB515 Introduction to Greek Language Study and BIB539 The New Testament Use of the Old Testament. You read that last one right! That's going to be an exciting course. Both of them will. But you might not know that the latter class is not really a course that's typically offered in seminaries. Sure the topic is covered in New Testament courses at the masters and doctoral levels, but we get to offer a course entirely devoted to this single topic. I can't wait. How have I structured the course? Well, it runs for six weeks. Here's how I've broken down the weeks:
  1. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Different Approaches
  2. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Gospels and Acts
  3. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Non-Pauline Letters
  4. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Pauline Letters
  5. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Pauline Letters (Cont'd)
  6. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in Revelation
Needless to say, I am really excited about this course. Our students are going to wrestle with different passages in the New Testament, and they'll get a nice picture of the major Old Testament passages utilized within. 

By the way, during which week will Hebrews be discussed? Week 5. I think we miss a lot by not viewing Paul as its author. And since the internal and external evidence is strongly in favor of Paul as the letter's author, we will not be swooshing it off to the land of the "unknown." No, no. We'll be discussing it when we discuss all of Paul's other letters.

Oh yeah, and we will be giving due consideration to a view that seems to not be really discussed in the scholarly literature. I'm referring to Robert L. Thomas' "Inspired sensus plenior Application" view. Here's an approach that you can't really ignore. It's got lots of strengths.

Wonder where I land my plane on the whole issue? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Arlington House And One Visitor's Experience

The disdain for Robert E. Lee during the War of Northern Aggression is hard to miss. One need look no further than his home. I'd go so far as to say that Lee Mansion is the single most important and most valuable spoil from the North's war against the South. I read this quote tonight from a Brit who visited the beautiful home that overlooked all of the District:
"It is a queer, old-fashioned place, with heavy columns and flights of steps, strangely like what is being now turned into–a mausoleum. The doors were all wide open, and we walked in unquestioned by the soldiers who were lounging about the entrance. . . . To see the home of Robert Lee sacked and made into a cemetery, and to fancy the thoughts that would fill that great heart . . . were so strange to me, and in their strangeness so painful, that I doubt whether I ever had a sadder walk than that visit to the heights of Arlington." (Mrs. Robert E. Lee, 276)
The commanding officer on top of the hill was adamant that the house be surrounded with the graves of fallen Union soldiers, a way he thought would ultimately disgrace the one he considered the biggest traitor at that time in his history (if not all of America's history). He hated the fact that the fallen were buried further away. And he took measures to ensure that subsequent burials would take place around the home, and especially in Mary's garden. Whether it was Atlanta or Arlington, there was little respect for personal property. War had shattered whatever there was.

Was Arlington ever returned to the Lee family? It was. In fact, a lawsuit had to make its way all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1882 the family land was deeded back, although no part of the Lee family would ever return to call it home. Robert E. Lee had already gone home to be with the Lord and from what I can tell never made an effort to regain his property. His wife only once visited it before her death, and she was greatly disturbed at the condition of the property. She didn't even get out of her buggy. It was Lee's son who petitioned the government for payment for the property. His son sold the land back to the federal government for $150,000. The federal government, after losing the Supreme Court case, had to either relocate the bodies of the fallen soldiers, totaling some 17,000, or pay an agreed upon price for the land they had occupied and later confiscated.

Alright, enough history for tonight. Back to work!