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Entries in Seminary Notes (83)


Challenged in holy living and productivity

Yesterday, at my school, our Ministry Leadership Day hosted Tim Challies. It was a well-attended gathering; there were quite a few people standing at the back of the chapel. For a young man attending, I think he would have seen two positive things: a good example of someone exegeting a passage of Scripture, and being challenged in the area of productivity. I had no idea I would get as much out of the productivity session as I did. I went to the day intending to purchase Visual Theology, and came home instead with Do More Better.

The first session had Tim sharing from I Thessalonians 4:1-12. It was a very good session. I have never heard him speak in the venue of preaching, and I was really challenged by it. The theme of the session was how to live holy lives, and he focused on the areas of being sexually pure, loving others, and living quietly. The last point, living quietly, was about embracing being unremarkable. He even mentioned that perhaps these days, with our love of celebrity, it is more radical to be unremarkable. I think that was a good message for everyone, but especially for the young men there with a future in the ministry.

Lately, I have felt that despite having the time, I seem to accomplish less than I would like. The second session, where Tim introduced principles for productivity, gave me some good pointers; ones I had not anticipated getting. In the past, I confess to being a little aloof toward productivity books and tools. I don't have a job outside my home, and my responsibilities are few compared to my husband, who juggles many. Why would I need productivity tools? I had my mind changed. I find it is good to have one's mind changed every now and then.

One of the aspects of the second session was doing an inventory of our responsibilties. That alone, is a good exercise. Tim mentioned a few things which I had never thought of before. He recommended using tools that are best suited to the task, i.e. don't use your email to remind yourself of something; use a scheduling tool. He recommended separating our tools to scheduling tools, information tools, and task management tools. I am hoping to make better use of my Google calendar in the future, and I am planning on starting to use Evernote. As I looked at it yesterday, I saw how convenient that will be in keeping track of information with regard to working on my term paper over the next month.

One thing that happens when your kids move out and you are presented with this life of reduced domestic details is that it is easy to simply stop worrying about them. As I walked through my living room yesterday evening, with the sunset streaming through the sheer curtains in my living room, I could see a layer of dust on the hardwood under my desk. I used to be better at housekeeping. I am sure using productivity tools for work or school research is a good idea, but why not for home organization? Maybe the reason I am not getting enough done is that I'm not as organized as I thought I was. 

Regrettably, I could not stay for the afternoon sessions, and I was particularly disappointed I missed the Q&A, because my prof was on the panel. But through the wonder of digital technology, I can catch it later. I left feeling challenged, and that is good. Being challenged will give us renewed purpose.


Not chicken nuggets . . . 

. . . but theology nuggets.

I love the little nuggets in my theology textbook (in passing, at 1100 pages, when I finish it next month, does it count as three books?).

From this morning's reading on the role of the church:

Worship and praise and the exaltation of God, was a common Old Testament practice, as can be seen particularly in the book of Psalms. And in the pictures of heaven in the book of Revelation and elsewhere, the people of God are represented as recognizing and declaring his greatness. In this aspect of its activity, the church centers its attention on who and what God is, not on itself. It aims at appropriately expressing God's nature, not at satisfying its own feelings.

My prof has a particular pet peeve (which I share) with bad worship lyrics, and as we discuss the topic of the church later this week, I wonder if it will pop up again.

Only when we give up our own will, self-seeking, and pride, do peace, joy, and satisfaction emerge. The same point can be made regarding the matter of self-esteem. Those who seek to build up their self-esteem directly will fail. For genuine self-esteem is a by product of exalting and esteeming God.

And with regard to the church's adaptability:

. . . long-term faithfulness to its calling, rather than short-term relevant to culture, should be the church's goal.


Christ and study: the best of both worlds

I think I always loved learning. Despite high school's attempts to dismantle that love, I re-discovered it in university and, especially in the years we homeschooled. It was then that I realized that this was who I was made to be: a student. My kids benefitted from homeschooling, but I think I got more out of it than they did. And since beginning seminary, I have seen again and again how this is, just as the saying goes, "how I am wired."

To combine two things, Christ and the study, is the best of both worlds. I had an all day class on Saturday. It was my ethics class, and as we discussed matters such as abortion, assisted death, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality, I was reminded again and again how theology is made very real as we look at these matters. In the past, as I have thought about practical applications of theology, I have tended not to look beyond matters such as how to be a good wife, friend, and mother. Other issues, these complex issues, really do demand a solid theological base and a sound understanding of the Bible and hermeneutics. As I sat there on Saturday, pondering such things, I felt one of those little blissful moments where all is right with the world. This was where I was meant to be at this time.

In discussion with some fellow students about further education after our Master's, we talked a about the possibility of the MDiv Research degree. This involves concentrated, supervised study on one topic, culminating in a thesis which must be defended orally. I admit to liking that thought. Following the Fall 2017 semester, I will be eligible to apply to move to that degree, provided I have some sort of idea of a thesis to put forth. There are loads of ideas I have for such a thesis. It's one of those daunting and exciting prospects. With an MDiv Research degree, I could potentially pursue doctoral studies later. A friend and I joked that we want to be little old ladies collecting doctorates some day.

I know that many people would say, "Why don't you just study on your own if you love it so much? You don't need seminary." That is true, and for many years, that is how I learned. But seminary gives me something that I, as a life-long student desperately need: community. Seminary provides classmates and professors who share the passion of learning about Christ. They care when you get excited at what you are learning. They understand your book addiction. And there is accountability and much appreciated feedback. At one time, I found that kind of feedback through blogging, but that has changed so much in the past few years. I'm not sure social media is the venue where I want to get feedback.

I am so thankful for opportunities to learn. I suspect that even if I had not been converted to Christ, I would have loved to learn. But I am so thankful I was converted. What better to study than the God of the universe?


Enter the world of original biblical languages!

Fall registration opened up at my school yesterday. It is so easy to register. We do it all online now.

This fall I am entering the world of the original biblical languages. I will be taking Greek Elements I. I had thee semester of Koine Greek when I was in university, and while I recognize much of the vocabulary, I've forgotten a lot. So, it's back to the beginning I go. I'm excited about it. Technically, for my degree, I don't need the languages. But who knows, perhaps I may move from the MTS to the MDiv, and for that, I will need the languages, three in Greek in and three in Hebrew. Under my current program, if I take all six language credits, I will use up all my electives.

I am thankful for a school which requires biblical languages for its seminary students. A number of years ago, I sat and listened to a young pastor boast about how he didn't need those antiquated biblical languages for pastoral ministry. He is certainly allowed to feel that way. For myself, even being a student who wants to get the most from a technical commentary, I can see the value in the original languages. Plus, it's just a lot of fun! I am not good at math puzzles, but I was good at Greek when I took it. It was like unraveling a puzzle of words. 

For my second course (I would love to do three, but I just don't think I have the time for three) I am torn between Church History I, The Synoptic Gospels, or The Greek Fathers. The Greek Fathers is taught by Michael Haykin, and it will be good, but it's not a required course, whereas the Church History is required and the Synoptic Gospels will fulfill a NT Bible requirement. I need to get those required courses finished.

I'm thankful to have such great choices. I probably sound like a broken record, talking about school, and how thankful I am for it. But I really am. I am really enjoying this season of my life. Many of my friends are becoming grandmothers at this phase of life. I am not there yet, but maybe I'm becoming a theologian?


A lesson learned from the disreputable

My kids liked Derek Webb's music when they were younger. I found his lyrics challenging, even if sometimes, they came across as bitter. Eventually, Webb fell from grace through unfortunate personal choices. So, I suppose saying that I still see the truth in some of his lyrics isn't politically correct in some Christian circles. Not many people will read this, so perhaps I am safe.

Webb's song, "A New Law" is one song I did like. Here is a clip to the video. The lyrics are below:

Don't teach me about politics and government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don't teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music
Don't teach me how to live like a free man
Just give me a new law

I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me
I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

Don't teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice
Don't teach me about loving my enemies
Don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit
Just give me a new law

What's the use in trading a law you can never keep
For one you can that cannot get you anything
Do not be afraid

When I first heard this, I saw my own tendency: to look for someone to tell me what to do. Whather it was looking to my pastor or looking to other respected Christian leaders, I was very quick to embrace the latest teaching which was popular. With social media and blogging, it was easy to find a tribe to align with, put my brain in neutral, and coast. 

I think this tendency is still pervasive. We tend to latch on to the popular because we perceive that it is more right. But we all know that popular teachers come and go, and in the end, we are left with ourselves: what do we know? What do we conclude? Have we been searching for truth or just a better place where we can get a "new law?"

Thinking things through is hard work, and yes, I believe women have often been discouraged from doing just that. Perhaps we are more at risk for simply seeking a "new law," whether it comes from our husband or a popular teacher. How many of us are like mother lions when we come to the defense of our favourite teacher? I've seen some very vitriolic exchanges between people critiquing and defending certain women teachers. There is loyalty, but at the heart of the matter is our blind loyalty because we fear that this teacher may actually be wrong?

Even as I think through these things, I wonder about the professors at my school. Am I accepting everything they teach without question? Am I simply looking to them to tell me what to think? I hope not. But it's something I should ask myself. And I need to do the hard work of thinking through things myself.