Dr. Jim Hamilton has no idea who I am. And yet, I daily find myself greatly indebted to him. As I teach 11/12th grade Biblical Theology, I am reminded daily how dependent I am upon the faithful men who have poured themselves out to minister to me. Since being married, I’ve realized that I also owe a great debt to their wives, who sacrifice in order for their husbands to be able to minister in such ways.
So, though you do not know who I am, thank you, Dr. Hamilton. Thank you for writing God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. It’s a weekly companion as I prepare my own lectures. Thank you for introducing me to Andrew Peterson, who reminds me that truth ought to be beautiful. And thank you for building in me a love for the Harry Potter books, which demonstrate excellence in storytelling and typology. Most of all, thank you for your passion and zeal to know the text that you might know God. More than anything, that is your greatest legacy to this former student of yours.
I just launched a website for my school’s theology department. What it lacks in sizzle it makes up for in functionality. From this site students can download the necessary documents for their classes. If you’re ever looking for resources, please feel free to use the syllabi posted. The most helpful material would probably be found in the Church History and Biblical Theology courses. The Church History course has about 20 documents posted of the greatest literature in Christian History, complete with study guides. The study guides focus on comprehension of the document, comparison with the Scriptures, and application to the present day. The Biblical Theology course will have study guides throughout the entire Bible, focusing on interpretation and application. The website may be found at nccstheology.wordpress.com
In your kindness, for your glory, through the power of the Spirit of Christ, I ask that you would make the students, staff, and faculty of North County Christian School people who. . .
- Gaze up upon the cross and see the result of their sin
- Stand at the empty tomb and know the greater power of God
- Are filled with the Fruit of the Spirit, because the Spirit is in them
- Remember their creator in the days of their youth, that when they are old they might not depart from your Holy Word
- Live lives that make unbelievers stand back in wonder about the power of the gospel
- Confess their sin to you and to the brothers and sisters they have sinned against
- Experience and hold forth the fullness of forgiveness
- Gladly suffer ridicule for righteousness’ sake, knowing they are being treated the same way as their master
- Are sowing small seeds of faithfulness to inherit large fields of harvest
- Find Truth to be unalterable, though all else may ebb and flow
- Love honesty, even though it might be injurious to their circumstances
- Yearn for holiness rather than worldly honor
- Saturate their minds with Scripture, not Spotify
- Care more for compassion than cleverness
- Are known for respect, not rebellion
- Desire diligence, not dissipation
- Love maturity more than movies
- Would rather be educated than entertained
- Live to make much of Christ and not themselves
- Endure to the end
You are the God who is worthy of all honor and praise and glory. Transform our hearts that we may magnify you. Amen.
Tomorrow I turn 27. Robert Murray M’Cheyne died at 29. M’Cheyne’s impact has been tremendous on the church though most people touched by his work know it not. M’Cheyne developed the most commonly used through the Bible in a year reading program, continuing in use through avenues such as D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God series and the ESV Study Bible.
As I take a break from work to write this, I’m surrounded by piles of books on inspiration and biblical theology to be used in the slow process of writing curriculum for my new classes. The house is coated with a light covering of dust from a half-sanded 1940s maple coffee table that will be reincarnated as beautiful rather than as the final resting place for leaking glitter bottles. Throughout the halls are boxes full of wedding presents from generous friends, some to be stored and saved and others to be used.
As I think of M’Cheyne’s life and legacy, the temptation arises to grow discouraged about my own. “I must do more for the kingdom,” says the siren voice of the success syndrome. ”If I die at 29, I’ll have done nothing noteworthy and die forgotten.”
But the purpose of faithful service in the kingdom of God isn’t for me to be remembered. It’s that Christ may not be forgotten in this generation and the one to come. The world must pant for justification, not my journals. And so if I were to know that I only had two years left, I’d do exactly what I plan on doing for the next two years: I will teach, that my students might know God. I will love my wife, seeking to bring joy into her life. I will actively serve my church, that I might be a blessing to my fellow believers.
This is what M’Cheyne sought to do. He did not set out to be famous. He was a man who faithfully lived his 29 years. He preached God’s word to God’s people, he wrote letters, he studied theology, he sought to order his life to know God more fully, and then he succumbed to typhus. We do not need men who are consumed by grand visions for the kingdom of God that have themselves as the thumbtack which holds it all together. We need men who will be content to put one foot in front of another day in and day out until they finish the course. May God crucify our ambitions of celebrity.
I haven’t thought about my blog for months. It once was a passion; to be truly honest I must say it was often a consuming passion. The articles written for this site span three major seasons of my life: college, seminary, and now teaching theology at a Christian school. Along the way my ministries have radically changed. My communities have radically changed. My marital status is about to change. (In the good way, not the bad way.)
But through it all, the gospel has stayed the same. I was shot through full of weaknesses seven years ago when I began to write. I still am. But that’s the point of the gospel. I am not perfect. I struggle with sin over and over again. New contexts and new ministries do not change my heart; God does. Slowly but surely he is shaping me into his image. That’s the point of life. More than blogs or ministry footprints or name-dropping, I just want to be faithful. Whatever the context, whoever the people, whatever the mission, I just want to be faithful.
John MacDougal was the one
Whom no one could abide
For he ever loved to show
The lashes on his side.
Over cigarettes and beer
His tongue would rise and wander
Far and wide and deep and long
And tear his heart asunder.
John MacDougal drank and spoke
And drank and spoke afresh
Ne’er to see the other lads
Bore lashes on their chests.
My heart far more does pound
For want of being thought profound
Than care for lack of grace.
Displays the eyes of one
Who’d rather be a slave than son
So long as I was praised.
I am at these truths twain:
I sin and you forgive again.
When God at first made man
Having a glass of blessings standing by
Let us (he said) pour on him all we can
Let the world’s riches, which dispensed lie
Contract into a span
But what the Godhead knew
That Adam yet had sight to ascertain
For all the wisdom that he was imbued
There was still left a dark, unhappy stain
For he was one, not two
Amidst the grand review
As all the beasts were made to walk a span
Then Adam felt what God already knew
That lonely virtue did not fit the man
Though all his thoughts be true
And as man felt his need
Resounding loud and deep within his soul
The first few wisps of supernatural sleep
Spoke of provision that would make him whole
A joy to touch him deep
At sight it became plain
As Adam first spied she of fairer face
That spans of blessing often bear a name
And there beneath the canopies of grace
Perfection knew no shame
And though they rent to dust
Every goodness save for God alone
An image still was placed within their trust
A shadow of the love that would atone
And make the unjust just
And we in weakness
Through generations ever passing on
Seek to trace what renders angels speechless
The gospel of our Savior, Heaven’s Son
Who as His bride would claim us
It is of this delight
The present joys would dare anticipate
As bride and groom employ to give us sight
Of our eternal, ever happy fate
And futures ever bright
For the Occasion of Peter and Vanessa Bugbee’s Wedding
June 16th, 2012
by George Herbert & Nate Brooks
Last Sunday, I began my descent into a world heretofore largely unknown. A world of smashed graham crackers, Brio trains being fought over like a seat on the last chopper out of Vietnam, and detailed conversations about superhero comic picture books that I’m apparently supposed to be intimately familiar with. Welcome to the 3 year old’s Sunday School. I’ve been around 3 year olds before, plenty of them. But it’s always been in numbers of 1 or 2, not a whole herd.
During our singing time, our fearless leader Joe led the kids in a song that I haven’t heard for 15 years but found still imprinted deep within the recesses of my mind.
I may never…
March in the infantry
Ride in the cavalry
Shoot the artillery
I may never fly o’er the enemy
But I’m in the Lord’s Army.
Looking back, I had three distinct thoughts about this song, written here in order:
1) How do I still know this?
2) This is a rather curious song. Following Christ is equated with being a member of an army that is not exactly an army. The etymology of this song would be an interesting study. It bears a marked resemblance to the “muscular Christianity” societies of the early 1890s – 1920s, connected with the Salvation Army and other movements that used militant metaphors to describe spiritual pursuits. Songs such as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Soldiers of Christ in Truth Arrayed, and Onward Christian Soldiers grew out of this culture milleu, which was also rather postmillennial. What was this song’s sitz-im-leben? (A German higher critical technical term meaning setting-in-life.)
3) What the heck is seminary doing to me, that I’m analyzing a six-line children’s jingle for it’s socio-religious heritage?
As I’ve grown in knowledge of the content of the Scriptures and the various moods of interpretation that have swept Christianity throughout the ages, I’ve discovered just how dangerous knowledge is. Seminary is full of deconstruction. We tear apart a passage, learning the possible translations and the various interpretations of the passage held by those men that we would consider theological mentors. We take history classes and learn how cultural pressures oftentimes drive hermeneutics, giving rise to both good and bad perspectives on the Scriptures. We counsel people from the Scriptures, helping them connect dots within their own lives that they’re not able to connect themselves.We have no reason to wonder that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 8:1? “[K]nowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
Last summer I read Black Hawk Down, the account of a failed military expedition deep within the heart of Mogadishu by a large contingent of Army Rangers. Embedded with the Rangers, who are the Army’s elite and specially trained soldiers, were a company from Delta Force, the “D-Boys.” The D-Boys are America’s most highly trained soldiers, the kind who are given a blank check by the government and told “buy whatever you want to carry into combat.” The arrogance of the D-Boys did little to diffuse any sense of competition between the two units. One sentence in particular crystallized the attitude of the camp: In the minds of the highly-trained D-Boys, the Rangers seemed like little more than an untrained rabble fresh from boot camp, a liability in the field who were certain to get themselves killed.
Do we do this as we complain about how many seminary students are at a church, then proudly proclaim we go to a “real” church, intimating that the reality of a church is defined by the lack of formal theological education in the pew rather than the one being worshipped? Do we do this as we contemplate how much more deserving we are of accolades than the man or woman who is recognized for their service to the Lord, cynically attributing their success to inside-track relationships? Do we do this as we write people off mentally for their weaknesses, believing them to be little more than barely-cognizant rabble fit for only the thirty-five person church that is simply delighted anyone would want to come and minister amidst the cornfields?
Love builds up, says Paul. Sometimes it’s harder to rejoice with the rejoicing than weep with the weeping, especially when they’re rejoicing for something you want but was given to them instead. A great test to see how much we truly love our brothers and sisters is to see how easily our heart bursts forth into praise when the Lord uses them in some great opportunity that we were not given. A competitive heart will seethe with envy, though the lips may be smiling. A Christlike heart actually feels those statements of congratulation that are necessarily being offered.
I looked it up, and I’m in the Lord’s Army was written anonymously and has no known copyright. I can’t prove it’s origins. And a wonderful thing of working with the 3 year olds is that they don’t care. They want me to untangle their hair from their nametag, give them their graham crackers, and help them memorize their verse. They want me to read them a story about Jesus, play with the Hot Wheels with them, and demonstrate that I care. There is no theological arms race in the 3 year old classroom. It’s kind of nice. And it calls me to be better than I usually am.