Archives For Personal Adventures

Yesterday, I reflected on what it might look like to do college ministry different. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m ripping off Apple by using an adjective when you “should” use an adverb (my views on grammar are somewhat philosophically radical).

After answering why and how, it’s time for what. As in, “what should the end goal of a college ministry be?”

The short answer is that we are shooting for helping produce mature disciples of Christ who are competent Christian adults. I think this target is actually more or less the same whether the college ministry is in a local church or in a parachurch ministry. The difference would be what part of the end goal you are helping produce.

For instance, SHIFT states its mission this way:

SHIFT’s Mission is to see college students

1.  respond and be transformed by the Gospel;

2.  engage in Biblical community through worshipping and serving with a local church in the area;

3.  share the Gospel with others in a way that’s relevant to their culture; and

4.  lead others to do the same.

Just to unpack this a bit, here’s what I see as required by this mission. In general, a student coming through SHIFT should:

  1. Respond in faith the gospel
  2. Join a local church
  3. Be involved in serving in the local church
  4. Show signs of growing in their faith (the “transformed” component above)
  5. Become equipped in sharing their faith
  6. Develop cultural awareness in several dimensions (pop culture, politics, prevailing philosophies, sports, etc.) in order to speak to the signs of the times
  7. Become a leader of others (peers, but preferably those a stage of life below, so college students able to lead high schoolers, young professionals able to lead college students).

Notice that I inserted the local church connection between “respond in faith” and “being transformed.” That’s because I think the primary arena of Christian discipleship is the local church and that’s where transformation more readily takes place as students are in multi-generational community, hearing the Word preached, and partaking in the Lord’s Supper. Then as they grow, they start to serve in the church and are well on their way to the other phases.

I might go so far as to say I don’t want students involved in a college ministry that aren’t willing to be part of a local church. I also wouldn’t want students who know tips and tricks in evangelism and apologetics, but aren’t developing the virtues in 1 Timothy 3. And I wouldn’t want students who are growing but not living out their faith in away that can connect with others, Christian and not.

In short, the mission all works together. It specifies an end goal, but it also divides the labor between the local church and SHIFT in a way that I think is helpful. It also puts a burden on us to work to facilitate the local church connections to properly outsource what we need to outsource (and vice versa).

When it comes to the actual end goal, we would like to produce more Christian leaders. This is also how SHIFT will grow and develop more moving forward. And it is the one point that probably needs more sub-points unpacking just what a leader entails.

In a sense, in order to lead others, you have to lead yourself well. You have to be going somewhere and know where that is. Otherwise, no one will be interested in following you. This entails a range of competencies, although one shouldn’t think that it necessitates a person who has everything together and no struggles or weaknesses.

While we often tend to cast the qualities of leadership in Christian categories, I think a good bit of actual leadership involves competencies that aren’t distinctly Christian. This is perhaps why it is helpful to read business and leadership books alongside theology books if you want to be a solid Christian leader.

Recently, I saw this as I was reading Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult a few weekends ago. According to his subtitle, he sees a crisis in our culture because of a lack of self-reliance. Now, you can tell in reading his book that he’s not thinking of self reliance in a strictly non-Christian sense. What he means is that young adults are often not able to take care of things themselves that a competent adult could. There is a kind of lapse in development that by its nature prohibits leadership development.

His solution to the problem covers a lot of ground and revolves around 5 themes he unpacks through the course of the book. He takes three chapters to set some context before spending a chapter each on these goals for young adults (8-10):

  1. Overcome peer culture and wrestle with other life stages
  2. Learn to work hard (he says suffering in our work is actually a character building virtue)
  3. Resist consumption (he says consumption is not the key to happiness, production is)
  4. Travel to experience the difference between “need” and “want”
  5. Become truly literate

Going off that last point, it probably goes without saying that leaders are readers, and Christian leaders are first and foremost Bible readers. But, most solid Christian leaders I know are also general readers and so end up being biblically as well as culturally literate. As a result, a big part of what we’d like to do with SHIFT is see an increase in both of those types of literacy.

As I mentioned yesterday, one way of doing this is through Bible studies aimed at developing biblical literacy. Another way may involve book clubs and the beginnings of a study center. Regarding the traveling component, that’s something we’d like to see happen through the student’s local churches as they take advantage of time during the summer to go on mission trips.

For the first three, I think that we will work to help students develop those areas through either monthly or bi-monthly large meetings. We are still thinking through the logistics of that at the moment, so hopefully I’ll have more to share later. But, when we do have larger gatherings (remember we’re staying de-centralized), we want them to be focused on developing cultural and leadership competencies, and so are focused on “adulting” rather than being something that could be confused for a church service.

It is also through these type of events that we can reach non-Christians. While we would want students to invite their non-Christian friends (that they are hopefully making in classes and around campus) to church, we’d also like to be a venue that they can invite them to something “secular” (which isn’t actually, but would be perceived that way).

I realize that’s vague, and so as you might guess, that means we need another post to unpack further. But, the main point is that we are hoping to help students grow into competent Christian adults, and that entails doing college ministry different, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is a question I’ve been thinking about for over 10 years. Ever since we’ve been in Florida, I’ve been involved with a college ministry at UCF called SHIFT. I’ve also been a high school teacher at a small private school about 20 minutes away.

As far as teaching, I’ve taught 3 classes now from freshmen to seniors. I’ve also seen two cycles of UCF students come in as freshmen, graduate, and adjust to life outside of the school schedule. I’ve seen students in both cycles flourish as well as flounder. And I’ve mostly wondered what could promote the former while diminishing the latter.

Generationally, I’m a millennial, but I prefer the label Generation Y. That’s probably because I like “why” as a question, and I actually think that’s a reason people don’t like millennials (sorry for the hot take there). Part of it is also my analytic personality type (INTJ) that leads me to question traditional methods, especially when they don’t seem effective.

So let’s ask some why questions.

First off, why do college ministry to begin with? Probably because college is a pivotal time in most people’s lives as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. Your identity tends to solidify in the 18-25 range, and for many people, a big chunk of that time is in college (or all of that time if you’re me). College is when teenagers become adults, for better or for worse.

I would like to see college ministry done in a way that helps young adults move through the sink of swim stage of their early 20’s. It can either be done through the local church, or through a parachurch. But, those two venues should have different aims.

So, with that in mind, how should you pursue college ministry?

This is where the different part comes in. The college ministry we are working with, SHIFT, is a parachurch organization. That means that what we do needs to be done alongside the local church (para means beside in Greek).

Too often, college ministries inadvertently replace the local church. If they create their own discipleship structure and have a weekly meeting that includes worship music and preaching, that’s effectively replacing the local church rather than working alongside it. We don’t want to do that.

A big part of that stems from taking a centralized approach, rather than a de-centralized one. In the former, it is about coming to a central location for a meeting that involves everyone in the ministry. It is a “come and see” sort of thing. The weekly meeting is the primary vehicle of engagement and all the activities flow from that central event.

In a de-centralized approach, you may never have a big meeting. SHIFT took this approach last year and rather than relying on a weekly meeting, had three small groups that met in various locations on campus. One was more apologetics based and dug into why Christianity is true. Another wrestled with the dynamics of integrating your faith into your work. And the other was a more traditional girls discipleship Bible study. Here and there all the groups would converge, but the primary avenue of engagement was the small group.

This is what we anticipate continuing into this coming school year. Not those exact groups per se, but the basic commitment to go small and mobile rather than large and inert.

We also want to work to get students plugged into local churches as their primary outlet for growing and serving. In other words, if students have time to volunteer for outreach and mission, we want them doing that in a local church, not through SHIFT.

As far as discipleship goes, I think that is something that takes multiple mentors to accomplish. For that reason, we still see Bible study as something should happen through a college ministry. But, we would see it as not just teaching about the Bible but as about learning to study it for yourself. While this can be caught through quality preaching, sometimes it is better to hash it out in a discussion based format.

As an example, for our summer Bible study in Ruth, it is part teaching Ruth and part learning to ask good questions when you’re reading the Old Testament. It is also a good test case for reading the Old Testament in light of the New since Boaz is literally called a redeemer. Learning to read the Bible well is both science and art, and college is a great time to start the journey.

A last, but not least question is, “what’s the target?”

Imagine a basketball team that used practices exclusively for conditioning drills. Everyone would be in really good shape, but wouldn’t know what to do in an actual game. On the other hand, if you had a team that only did shooting drills all practice, they might all be the next Steph Curry, but they wouldn’t have the endurance to get through a real game. And what if a team just did defensive drills all practice, without any explanation of how they fit into the flow of a game?

College ministries, and even local churches, can make similar mistakes. All the activities that take place as part of a college ministry need to have an end goal in mind. College ministry can’t just be youth group 2.0 (and no offense if your youth group is solid). It can’t feel like its church for your college years. And it can’t waste a bunch of time keeping people busy doing all kinds of “ministry” activities that don’t really lead to seeing people grow in Christ.

So what’s the target?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

On Sunday, I dropped my car off for a much needed oil change. Since it’s on high-mileage now (just under 250,000), I try to space them out as much as possible (within the guidelines). This is tricky because as the car has aged it has acquired a taste for oil. I can’t actually make it between oil changes without adding a quart or two along the way.

I usually have my fingers crossed when I drop it off because it seems just about every summer there is some sort of repair needed. My original Camry was good to me, and only needed routine maintenance until I totaled it just shy of 285,000 miles. This car has been a different story. Lemon is probably a strong word, but whoever had it before me got it off on the wrong trajectory.

During church, in fleeting moment of service, I noticed voicemails from the mechanic. As it was too soon to be ready, I knew this meant something need fixin.

Sure enough, my radiator was leaking. Not being entirely sure if this is a thing you can just ignore (probably not), and having an afternoon to take care of it, I drop the $500 to get it done.

All is well and good until I notice Monday morning that the car is leaking coolant. On a return trip to the mechanic to get the coolant topped back off, I set an appointment to come back Tuesday and see if it might be the water pump (spolier: it is).

Apparently, when the pressure is stabilized by replacing the radiator, other weak spots might give. In this case, it was the water pump, and as is my car’s custom, it couldn’t be replaced without fixing another broken mechanical part (a tensioner that had to be removed to get to the pump). Bottom line: another $500.

On Wednesday, I took a break from visiting the mechanic. But, I noticed the car was now leaking oil instead of its usual habit of burning it internally. Not knowing what that might entail, I decide to wait and see if it is still doing tomorrow (now today). Sure enough it was, and when I called they said they could check it out right away.

Luckily I did because a crankshaft pulley had lost a seal and the metal was scraping through the housing of the timing belt, leading to the oil leak. Had this continued on, it would have eventually ruptured, all the oil would have drained out, and the car would have been dead. An unfortunate third repair this week, and another $700 (I am rounding numbers for your convenience).

Now, would I have noticed this leak if I hadn’t been already vigilant because of the previous repairs?

Probably not.

It is inconvenient (and expensive!) to have to deal with car repairs by the quarter dozen?

Absolutely.

But, better this week, when school is over and I have a work project that I can do in a waiting room. And, better now, when we could go down to one car, rather than earlier in the spring when we couldn’t or later in the fall when that isn’t feasible again.

The bottom line is that after spending more than the value of my car to keep it running, I need to find a new one. But, in God’s providence, I’ve got a couple of months to work all the details out, instead of having a dead car on my hands and need to do something ASAP.

And, as is custom, I can look to how God has taken care of my recent past as a blueprint and promise for how we will take care of our future. Although with the caveat that God is too creative to do the same thing the same way twice.

If you could though, pray for wisdom for us, and for provision. Since Ali quit Panera back in January, she hasn’t drawn a paycheck since early March (her last bonus). I just got my last paycheck for school last week. On paper, we don’t like we have steady income, although that will be different in a couple of months. If we rely on how our support has been payed out, that helps, but it is also coming from a source that has only been paying me for 6 months. We got a great deal on Ali’s car, but that was at the height of her Panera income, so it’ll have to be a different route this time.

In God’s providence, we have time to sort this out, but pray that we’ll be wise with our options and that God will bring the right car at the right time. He’s done it for us twice before, so it’ll be interesting to see how it comes about this time!

While the last day of school was May 25th, it feels like summer only really started this week. We did have our end of the year teacher workday last Tuesday, so this is the first week without any school obligations. Although, I am not without a bit of prep and planning to do for the next year.

This completes my 7th year teaching at International Community School, so I’d like to announce that next year I am taking my sabbatical. Just kidding, although my teaching neighbor for the last few years is doing just that, but to focus on being a stay at home mom (and after 11 years, so she’s earned it more than I have).

For me, I’m gonna shift focus away from school for several weeks and do some decompressing. May always takes a bit out of me, socially at least. I’m pretty caught up on reading, so I’m actually gonna catch up on writing instead over the next few weeks. Ali and I are in a new workout routine and will probably make some theme park runs in the near future.

As far as life in general, we just had a new roommate move in, who is starting at RTS in the fall. He’s one of Ali’s brother’s best friends and is a pretty cool guy. In some ways, he reminds me of me 10 years ago: in a new place and about to start seminary. We also had another new roommate move in back in March that graduated from Liberty and is looking to find work at a church in youth ministry. He’s also pretty cool, and we’ve already a few good theological discussions.

Our other roommate Matt, one of my best friends from back in the day in Tennessee, is still living with us as he goes through a divorce. Up until last May, we had been living with him and his wife and a teenage girl they were fostering (not through the system though, long story). We are renting a large house and had been easily able to split the living quarters (upstairs and downstairs) as well as rent.

Relationally, things began deteriorating between the three of them last February, and it culminated in the girl getting kicked out, and the wife abandoning to go be with her the following week. She left without warning and we haven’t seen her since (although Matt has, but only after over 6 months). Obviously, there is a lot more to the story, and it’s still brewing in the background. Matt had lost his dad unexpectedly earlier that year, so it was two back to back losses and he’s had a pretty hard time dealing with it. The trauma we experienced pales in comparison to his.

I only mention all that because it explains what things have been like inside our home for the past year. I don’t often post personal updates, and I don’t want to spend too much time talking about someone else’s story. At the same time, because we lived together, it is part of our story now too. Peace was a struggle but it has come gradually and we are thankful. Matt’s not out of the woods yet, but God’s brought people into his life to share his burdens and be the body of Christ.

In the midst of all this, the decision Ali and I made last summer to start the support raising process and see where God would lead us has culminated in formally coming on staff with a college ministry at UCF. I am still continuing to teach my normal schedule, although without any electives (besides sports journalism, and possibly weightlifting). I plan to continue doing that for the foreseeable future.

Because Ali quit Panera (after almost 11 years) back in January, we’ve been in the process of raising support. We are covered for the summer, but the fall is a question mark. We are a good ways along, but have quite a bit more to go in order to not have side jobs. That means at this point, Ali will be working a couple of part time jobs moving into the fall, and I’ll continue teaching at the school, as well as minimal private music lessons and the editing and research work I do.

We are hoping to take advantage of the two less busy months and spend as much time planning for the fall as we can. Planning in the financial sense (raise monthly support), as well as missional sense (how SHIFT will do para-church ministry in the fall). We are also trying out a summer Bible study to see if that’s helpful for students that are incoming freshmen as well as those still around in the summer. And, we need to solidify leadership and other back-end things that I won’t bore you with right now (but might if you ask later).

I’m looking forward to the change of pace, but am also not kidding myself about how much juggling is in our future. There is less of that the sooner we meet our August 1st goal of monthly support. In the coming days, I’m going to be processing some thoughts about our ministry on here. We are taking a step of faith by losing a primary source of income in order to pursue our calling. If that’s something you’d like to invest in, do not hesitate to contact me (and I might contact you before you know it).

In the meantime, I hope to get back in the writing groove, live without an alarm for a few weeks, and enjoy some much needed rain here in central Florida.

This month, I feel like I did a decent job of diversifying my reading. That trend will probably continue going into the summer, although May is gonna be a little crazy.

I added 13 books this month, which is back closer to January and February, with 12 of the 13 hitting categories in the challenge. That also means I hit 50 for the year. Most of these I read cover to cover this month, but a few (you’ll notice them) are much longer and it just happened that I finished them in April.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (a book about current events)

Here’s what I already wrote on Rod Dreher’s book.

Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels (a book about theology)

This was another part of my pre-Easter reading. I’ve got a post in the works about how this fills in a significant lacuna in another semi-controversial book that just came out. I’ll keep it ambiguous until then.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (a book about history)

I don’t often read brief histories of humankind. Much less do I read radical gay vegan takes on it, that go where only Nietzsche and Foucault dreamed of going. Yuval Noah Harari is probably a presuppositional apologetist’s best friend because he starts with atheism and then consistently traces out how it would apply to the human species and their cultural products and practices. I need to trace that out more, and hope to do so soon.

The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Courses (a book recommended by a friend)

You may notice an uptick in beer related reading, but I’m not quite ready to explain why. Let’s just say it is actual research, and also attempting to understand one of life’s simple pleasures.

An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans

If Michael Bird writes a book, I’ll probably read it and tell you about it. I need to do a more formal review of this one, so I’ll wait and tell you more then!

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (a book of your choice)

I spent the better part of Easter weekend finishing this up and it is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I would highly recommend wrestling with Fleming Rutledge’s work. While it is a theology book, it is conversational in tone and culturally saavy in references and anecdotes. In other words, this isn’t your typical 600 page theology book. I wouldn’t say I quite agree with everything she wrote, and this post from Andrew Wilson explains a good bit why.

Know Why You Believe (a book about apologetics)

I’ve got a review of this third volume in the KNOW series from Zondervan in the works. It also made for a great read during Easter weekend.

The Triunity of God (Vol. 4 in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics) (a book you have started but never finished)

This represents finishing Richard Muller’s massive study in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. I can’t really summarize my thoughts here, but I can let you know that an updated version of this series is coming out soon(ish) that will include two new volumes. If you’ve thought about getting them, wait until then (because $500 on Amazon is not worth it)

Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (a book your pastor recommends)

When I graduated Dallas in 2011, I got Bavinck’s four volume Reformed Dogmatics. I would wish that everyone who fancies themselves a theologian would take the time to work through these volumes. Maybe not drag it out as much as I did, but if you read one multi-volume systematic, make it this one.

Paul and His Recent Interpreters (a book you own but have never read)

This was originally going to be part of N. T. Wright’s fourth volume in the Christian Origins and The Question of God series (otherwise known as PFG). But, it became its own volume and came out later. I got a review copy from Fortress, so I’m going to share more in a seperate post.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (a book about Christian living)

I did a write up on this for Christ and Pop Culture, if you’re a member, you can get it for free!

This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (a book for teens)

Once again, I’ll have more to say on this one in a review. But for now, it has become a late addition to my textbooks for next year but it was written by an 18 year old girl and it makes good on the promise in the subtitle.

Reality Is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity (a book of your choice)

I’m not sure I can actually explain where I’m at on this one. On the one hand, it is supposed to be a popular level physics book. On the other hand, I had a hard time understanding it and people tell me I’m smart. I think it might be because of how much of a paradigm shift it is (time and space don’t exist the way you think they do). But, as I’m about to embark on an Interstellar re-watch, I’ll have more thoughts down the road I imagine.

If there’s one thing I do on this blog consistently, it’s start blog series with reckless abandon and then never come back to them. However, I intend to pick back up the book reviewing one, as well as the seminary one. I don’t think there’s any more recently orphaned ones (besides an on-going story about a trip to California that now has a Part 2), and so another a new one doesn’t complicate things too much.

This one has been rummaging around in my mind since at least this time last year. When I was younger, I listened to a tape series called Adventures in Odyssey (cue nostalgia for some of you). This series is something like “adventures in ecclesiology.” Probably lamer to be honest. But, I couldn’t think of a better title.

Everything kind of started when I left for college (not surprising right?). Up to that point, I had been at the same church since 3rd grade. That I can remember, I had only been part of one other church before that. During the two years I was at Word of Life, you really couldn’t regularly attend a church. Well, you could, but it took more effort than I was willing to put in. I did enjoy two churches in Florida, and exactly zero in New York.

My first, how you might say, “awkward” experience with a church was at one of those Florida churches. It wasn’t actually even during my time at school in Florida, but on a trip back through to see friends and go to a concert in Ybor. That Sunday, I went to the one church because that’s where the guy I was staying with went. I had gone several times while I was in school because my buddy Steven and I had recorded an album for the current (at the time) worship pastor.

This particular Sunday involved me being a bystander while a pastor broke up with his church. While I don’t know the history of the church, I think the guy had planted it, and at the very least had been the pastor of the church plant for several years at that point. His message, and I’m using that word loosely, was basically, it’s not you, it’s me. He explained why he was leaving, and then from what I understood, moved to North Carolina and started working at Barnes & Noble.

Had I been a member of this church, it might have been more devastating than awkward. I think everyone had been blindsided. Luckily, that worship pastor I mentioned was able to step up and start preaching and now he’s the lead pastor (and has been for over 10 years, longer than the previous guy). While that is a good thing, I am guessing the original pastor peacing out wounded quite a few people and it took the church some time to heal. I am also guessing that he was experiencing pretty significant burnout, and so hopefully he has healed as well.

This story, while relatively minor in my own personal history, opened up a new perspective on the local church. Up to the time I left for college, I had a pretty bland Bible belt Baptist church experience. I have no complaints, because I think I went to a pretty healthy church. It probably had its issues, but I wasn’t necessarily in the know. The church is different from when I left it, but, the pastor I grew up with is still the pastor of the church. Other staff have shuffled in and out, but he’s still going strong.

This particular experience at the church in Florida was perhaps a firsthand entrance into church drama. It was the first time I saw a pastor lose pastoral credibility right in front of my eyes. Much of what happened that day might have been solved by better accountability. At the same time, I’m sure it wouldn’t have fixed everything and I’m not privy to all the underlying details. I know what he publicly presented to his church, but I don’t know the back-end workings.

In the end, it may have been what helped develop my conviction that pastors who haven’t been vetted by a really solid seminary probably shouldn’t be planting churches. A corollary to this is that pastors who couldn’t get hired by a local church didn’t need to strike off and form their own. I certainly left Dallas with those convictions, in part after seeing everything you have to go through to get a ministerial seal of approval from a serious seminary. But, as I have also seen firsthand, just because someone has a seminary degree and seal of approval, it doesn’t mean they will be a good pastor.

These things are tricky aren’t they?

All of this serves as a kind of introduction to my way of processing my personal history with the local church, which has certainly had ups and downs. I’ve witnessed church issues and no doubt caused a few myself (we’ll get to that). My sample size is admittedly small, but I’ve read widely in both the history of the church and the recent history of evangelicalism. I’ve also never been on staff at church and I’m going on staff with a parachurch ministry. That obviously skews my perspective a bit.

I’m not here to trash the church, in general or particular. I’m just trying to think through a healthy relationship with the local church in general (especially as it pertains to young adults) and in particular (as it pertains to our recent church search that was set in motion this time last year). I’m also trying to think through what activities the local church should be spending more time on, and what parachurch ministries (especially college campus ones) can and should focus on doing. I’d also like to touch on how something like the Benedict Option fits into all of this, but it might take a while to get there. But, if you’re along for the ride, we’ll get there eventually.

Unlike most months, I did a fair amount of re-reading in order to polish up my ETS paper. In light of that, I only finished 9 new books. I know right? Really slacking off here. Some of these I’ll comment on in more detail later. Also, I left off the categories this time because I think I only read more theology books so I probably didn’t any new category unless we want to get creative with some of the N. T. Wright books (like categorizing them as young adult fiction or something similarly savage).

I’m actually in California right now, draining a Trenta cold brew as quick as I can to make up for jet lag and something less than four hours of sleep. By the time you read this, I’ll be somewhere around downtown San Fransisco, helping keep track of a bunch of high school seniors. Or driving to Yosemite. Depends on when you read.

UPDATE: I added categories to the books below

Anyway, here’s the 9 books (total of 37 for the year) I’ve gotten to in the 2017 Reading Challenge:

Summa Philosophica (a book of your choice)

This is the first Peter Kreeft book I read in a while, and it was quite enjoyable. As an intro to important philosophical questions and a different style of argumentation, it’s a great book. Highly recommend!

The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle (a book about the Bible)

SPCK sent me this for review and it was super helpful to read right before ETS. I’ll have more to say about in a formal review, but it is basically N. T. Wright saying N. T. Wright things in response to select reviews of his massive book on Paul. It also serves as a good intro to some of his main lines of thought on Paul, and might be the place to start with Wright if you haven’t wrestled with him.

Prophet, Priest, and King: The Roles of Christ in the Bible and Our Roles Today (a book about theology)

P&R sent this along for review, so I’ll save most of my comments. The threefold offices of Christ deserve more study and attention and this book by Richard Belcher is a good place to start.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation (a book of your choice)

This is the first volume in a new series by Christian Focus called Reformed Exegetical and Dogmatic Studies (R.E.D.S.). J. V. Fesko outlines the historical understanding of the doctrine of imputation before a section on exegesis from the Old and New Testaments and then a final dogmatic formulation that is sensitive to modern discussions on the historical Adam. I won’t spoil the whole thing, but he doesn’t break new ground from a traditional Reformed perspective.

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (a book with one word title)

I’ll have a write up on this for Christ and Pop Culture soonish since it is going to be a member’s offering. If you haven’t become a member yet, you should do so you can read it!

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (a book of your choice)

This book was interesting to read in tandem with Fesko’s. I like Matthew Bates’ writing style, and his proposal here gives me some pause on issues I’ve been reflecting on for a while. I’ll probably do some more extensive writing about it since I noticed a lacuna in his seemingly thorough presentation of the gospel (I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with active obedience of Christ).

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (a book over 400 pages)

I don’t think I’ll have anything to say about this that goes beyond Michael Horton’s review or Dane Ortlund’s reflections. It is in some sense a classic book by Wright. Well written and provocative, it is has a good deal of false dichotomies and writes polemically against unclear opponents. If you’re new to Wright, I wouldn’t start here.

John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 3 (a book of your choice)

I’ve almost reading everything John Frame has written. Almost. There are several gems in this one. Good stuff on Van Til, not being a jerk in seminary, you know typical Frame. I’ll have a more complete write-up soon for a new series I’m starting.

Reformed Dogmatics: Christology (a book more than 100 years old)

On the plane ride over here, I caught up on some of my Logos reading plans and happened to finish this one up. I’m now getting into the volume on soteriology, which I kind of wish I had tapped into during the research earlier this month. But, no matter, Vos is worth digging into, even if it is not the most riveting layout of the material (Q/A format).

It was mid morning under a gray Kentucky sky. While almost spring it looked an awful lot like winter to me. I put on Copeland’s In Motion, one of my favorite albums from my college days. Around the time it came out, I have a very distinct memory of listening to it on a very different road trip along much of the same road.

The year was 2005. It was also spring break if I remember right. I was driving back form Chicago after seeing my girlfriend at the time who went to Moody Bible Institute. I had recently been accepted as well, but didn’t quite grasp that we were going to break up in about a month while I was standing in LaGuardia waiting to board a plane to Argentina. Good thing it was over the phone. And so I moved back to Knoxville in the fall instead of Chicago, ended up completing my degree through Liberty.

That trip ended up being the first and only time I did the Knoxville-Chicago road trip. Which is probably good because Indiana is supremely boring. Back to Friday though when I was listening to Aaron Marsh exhort Amanda to pin her wings down (if you know this reference, I’m glad we’re friends). This was the first road trip to Louisville since April of 2014 when I came up for Together 4 The Gospel (T4G) and to meet with my doctoral adviser for the program in Christian Philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We had a great talk about postmodern philosophy, aesthetics, and presuppositional apologetics. Neither he nor I knew I would withdraw from the program before the year was out, but it was good time nonetheless. Along the way, I met up with Richard Clark and he agreed to let me write for Christ and Pop Culture, which I still do (and you should check out)

This time around, I presented a paper for regional ETS and had a much overdue catch up with my friend Todd. On the drive back, my mind was processing through it all. You know, all the road trips. All the journeys, some of which seem to be dead ends.

And it made me think that I needed to start writing down about the road that lead to here. Here currently being Knoxville, but by the time you read this, if it is shortly after posting, I’ll be on another road trip back to Florida. If it is no longer March 21st when you read it, I’ll be somewhere in Orlando, probably spending the rest of my spring break reading or writing. But if it’s after March 29th, I’ll be somewhere in California, keeping track of an assortment of high school seniors.

I get around, if you hadn’t picked up on that yet.

But in all that getting around, I’ve learned some important lessons. Some about myself, some about God, and some about the world we find ourselves. I also learned how to link those things together.

I’m also entering into a new season with Ali, we were actually both going to be able to devote much our time to ministry. It’s what we’ve both wanted and what we both trained for. Ali went to Liberty as well, but never finished. She did get a job at Panera and so happened to be working there when I stopped in during a road trip. If I had gone to Moody like I planned, that road trip wouldn’t have happened. If she hadn’t gone to Liberty, withdrawn but not moved back, she wouldn’t have been in Lynchburg. And we probably would have never started talking and then it would have made getting married a little over two years later a bit difficult to say the least.

And if I hadn’t gotten into that Ph.D program at Southern, gotten a Southwest card thinking I’d be flying to Louisville a lot, we wouldn’t have had the miles saved up when the opportunity to chaperone last year’s senior trip came around. Without that re-entry into a week of student ministry, Ali might not have felt the call re-ignited, and we wouldn’t have started raising support last fall. If God hadn’t moved people to be generous, we wouldn’t have raised enough money for her to quit Panera (after almost 11 years!) back in January.

While there are several different threads in the story I want to tease out, I think this gives it all a good theme. We’re all arriving somewhere, and the journey is part of the process. Rather than trusting the process, we trust the God who providentially guides our steps. Road trips are usually when I have time to reflect on all of this, but are also a pivotal part of the journey. Most of my important decisions have happened on road trips or shortly after. And all my important relationships are nurtured by them.

With that in mind, I want to use my road trips as a means to unpack several parts of the story of how Ali and I got here. Here as in raising support for full-time ministry this fall, but not knowing exactly how we’re gonna pay our bills in June. Here as in trusting God to step into ministry opportunities that weren’t necessarily what we planned or expected when we were younger and more idealistic. But opportunities and paths that make perfect sense once you’ve been down enough dead ends. And that’s the kind of stories I want to tell.

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I last made it to an ETS regional. Actually, looking at the timeline, I think I go every three years because my first one was in 2011. I also have presented at each one (you can read the previous papers here), and continue that tradition this year.

I re-worked a paper from my Romans class at Dallas. It need some revision and updating, both for newer resources and evolution in thought. The result is called New Perspectives on Paul: Reconciling Wright, Schreiner, and Thielman on Justification. Here is the intro:

The purpose of this paper is to offer an epistemological framework that is suitable for harmonizing differing positions on the nature of justification. The focus here is first, on introducing the framework, and then second, on demonstrating its usefulness in some recent dialogue, namely, the plenary addresses from the 2010 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society Rather than a rigorous exegetical defense, this is a proposal using a tool of epistemology to attempt to solve a theological difficulty. While all the different perspectives are not completely resolvable, the three presented at the 2010 annual meeting just might be.

I don’t pretend to think it solves all the problems associated with interpreting Paul’s theology. I do however think that John Frame’s triperspectivalism is a useful tool for navigating the different emphases and integrating various conclusions into a coherent whole. As to whether anyone agrees, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I write about a books quite a bit. Often, I link to either Amazon or Westminster Bookstore when I make my posts because I get kickbacks to do so (I’ve disclosed that elsewhere).

Well, until Friday, I can get a kickback and you can save $5 and get free shipping if you check out their new website. They explained that they’ve made five improvements they think customers will like:

  • Fully Responsive Design: In this age of smartphones, we’ve worked hard to build a site that is functional, intuitive, and useful on any size screen.
  • Streamlined Browsing: Using browsing sliders and improved search functionality, you’ll be able to discover books more easily than before.
  • Revamped Categories: We are especially hopeful that our refreshed and “re-curated” categories will go far in directly advancing our mission of equipping the church with biblically faithful content.
  • Easy Checkout Flow: We’ve consolidated our checkout page into 3 easy and intuitive steps.
  • A Work in Progress: This is the feature we’re most excited about – our new site gives us an entirely customizable foundation that we can constantly improve upon.

It’s definitely worth checking out, as the bookstore is not just a store but a ministry. I’ve benefited greatly from sales they’ve had through the years, as well as titles that were harder to find. If you haven’t really taken advantage of this online bookstore, now is the time to do so!