Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's all about Jesus. Or is it? 

Certainly He is the fulfillment of all promises, the king above all kings, and the climax of God's redemptive plan. We follow Him utterly and would die for Him gratefully. If all of that is true, then why is it the phrase still bothers me so much?

It seems that when many churches or Christians say, "It's all about Jesus" what they really mean is, "it's only about Jesus." And that's just not true. Unfortunately it often happens that we elevate the life and work of Jesus without giving equal emphasis to the Father and a holistic understanding redemption history, without which we cannot hope to comprehend the life and work of the Son.

Certainly you cannot stress enough the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus. But if there is not equal stress on the centuries of promises by the Father, and the centuries of the expectation, yearning, and waiting of Israel, we run the risk of not seeing God’s full plan. The depth and breadth of God’s beautiful and historical salvation story risks being lost on us. We risk the short-sighted view that paints Jesus as a last minute, Seal Team 6-type rescue mission for a world that has gotten out of hand and God’s control.

And though this view may evoke gratitude towards the Savior, it misses the breath-taking awe and grandeur of the Father. It forsakes the millennia of His faithful planning, promising, and preparing that culminates in Jesus, who came to glorify the Father.[1]
If the "all" in this phrase refers to all areas of a believers life then yes, everything in our life should be about following Jesus. However, if by "all" we mean everything in redemption history then it's not "all about Jesus." Biblically speaking, redemption history is all about the glory of the Father.

Indeed, throughout the New Testament, Jesus confirms that His life and ministry exist to bring glory to God the Father. Whenever someone performs a miracle or proclaims the gospel, a version of the words, “and they glorified God,” follows. The Gospel of Matthew even specifies that it is “the God of Israel” receiving glory:

…so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
(Matthew 15:31 ESV)

This is the God of Israel—the God Who brings them out of Egypt, leads them in battle, gives them the Promised Land, guides them home again, and meets their faithlessness and desertion with faithfulness and promise of new restoration.  All of history leads to this point where all of God’s promises find their fulfillment in the Messiah Jesus.

Jesus points us to this truth in His first words from the Gospel of Mark: 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:15 ESV)

If in your mind the “gospel” only means the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, you have to wonder what gospel Jesus speaks of in this verse.  Neither Jesus nor Mark offers any explanation, which should tell us that both Mark and the entire audience by the river that day knew exactly what Jesus meant by gospel.

So what gospel does Jesus preach? The majority of Christians are aware that the word “gospel” is a Greek transliteration for the term “good news.” Yet with the events of the cross in the future, what does Jesus mean by the “good news” of the kingdom of God?

Any Jewish man or woman who heard Jesus preach knew exactly what He was talking about. Their hope rested in the final earthly kingdom of God given through Old Testament promises; promises given amidst slavery, exile, rebellion, and military defeat; promises clung to by a people whose nation had been politically destroyed and oppressed. Yet Mark tells us Jesus’ first words are a declaration that this kingdom is very near.  The good news, then, is that the prophesies of Isaiah, given at the opening of Mark’s Gospel, come to fulfillment in the person and ministry of Jesus. Jesus is the realization of Israel’s covenant hope, of all Old Testament promises, of the redemption of Israel and the establishment of God’s Kingdom finally and forever.

Jesus is the climax of God the Father’s redemption story, and regardless of how bombastic, how beautiful, and how amazing the climax scene of a film is, it is always more beautiful and meaningful to someone who understands how the story begins.

If we fail to see the whole story, we miss the meticulous movement of the Father who  works for the redemption and restoration of His children for thousands of years. Failing to comprehend God’s full plan blinds us to the majesty of His infinite faithfulness and patience as He weaves the path of our return to the Tree of Life through ages of our adultery, idolatry, rebellion, and centuries of whining and wandering.[2]  The gloriousness of His control—like brilliant composer directing a symphony—can only be seen as we look to the Father, our Father, Who has been acting on behalf of His children since the foundations of the earth. Only then can I sit speechless under the divine weight that such a glorious plan would include me.

You will miss, too, how the entire redemptive history plays out in the life of each believer.  Chosen for a covenant with Him, each of us has had the angel of eternal death pass over us because of the Lamb’s sacrificial blood; each of us has been led out of slavery; each wandered into his own desert; each stumbled in idolatry and sin. Most gloriously, we also each receive the Father’s fulfilled promise to make atonement for our sins, send His Spirit into us, to write the law on our hearts, cause us to be righteous brothers of Jesus, and finally make us worthy of our sonship. He becomes our God as we become His people. 

Love Jesus, worship Jesus, and glorify Jesus. But let the beauty and glory of Jesus implore you to love the beauty and glory of the Father Who sent Him.

Finally, preach the forgiveness of your sins at the foot of the cross. Never stop preaching it, believing it, or being in awe of it. But widen your gospel vision lest you miss the height and the breadth and the weight of what you are caught up in.

            When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.
(John 17:1-5 ESV)
            Then comes the end, when He [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power… then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him [the Father] who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.
(1 Corinthians 15:24, 28 ESV)

[1] John 14:13; 15:8; 17:1, 4-5.
[2] Genesis 3:24- He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


             Recently someone wrote me on facebook and said they were interested in missions but didn't know where to start. They asked me for my advice and though I think the title of this entry accurately expresses how qualified I feel to be handing out advice about being a missionary, I related very much to the question. Before I had an agency, funds, or church support, I was just a random church member with a desire towards missions and absolutely no idea what to do next. Months down the road when I was preparing to leave for Guatemala I was amazed at how many Christian men and women approached me with the same comment, "I think I want to do this but I have no idea where to start." So for that purpose I though I might share my response:
I thought over your question to me about what steps to take when considering going into overseas missions. Though I am no expert, this would be my advice.

First of all: pray. Pray and fast. Ask God to bless and guide you.

If you feel you have a “calling,” then ask God to bless and clarify it. Some people feel this strongly, others don't. Some people say you must be absolutely certain you have a "calling" to overseas missions in order to go. I am no expert, and there are those who know far more than I; however, my opinion is that if you don't know if you have a "calling" to international missions then don't spend too much time stressing over it. It's an ambiguous term at best and everyone usually means something different by it. In my opinion, an esoteric emotional feeling is not necessary in order to make the decision to go into ministry. What is necessary is God-given desire and God-given permission. If you have the desire to go overseas and God seems to be opening doors for it, then I say go through those doors.

I would mention that if your church authority or community is against you going overseas, that may be a good indication of whether you have 'God-given' permission. Though there have been times in history where God's will included subverting the authority of the church, those who did it were unwaveringly sure of their scriptural position. So unless you're feeling on par with Luther these days, I would recommend giving a lot of weight to your church's opinion on the matter.

If no one in your church knows you well enough to tell you whether you are in a place to go into overseas missions, then that is your first step—get into community! Join a Bible study, find a mentor, and begin to serve at your church. Surround yourself with people who know you deeply and can speak into your life over this matter.

If you don’t already serve at your local church, then start now. If you have no desire or discipline to serve your church in the States, then that will not magically change when you go overseas.  If you are not involved in serving locally but you want to go overseas, I would wonder whether you are primarily motivated by the overly-romantic notion that being a missionary is an ‘honorary’ position that will bring you approval and status.

I recommend finding and taking a Perspectives course. This is an excellent course about missions, which will open your eyes to the needs and opportunities around the globe. You will hear from missionaries that have spent time on the field and get a realistic look at what missions is like. You will also learn about various fields and it may help you zero in on an area that interests you. There are some local churches that offer the course (The Village Church being one of them). This is an excellent place to start.

Another excellent resource (though not as imperative as the Perspectives course in my opinion) is John Piper’s book Let the Nations be Glad!

Here are some practical steps you will need to take to get started:

1. Talk to your church.
Your first step would be to visit your church's missions pastor and let him know your interest. It's ok if you don't know where you want to go or what you want to do. Ask your church if they have any overseas partner churches or overseas internship opportunities.

2. Choose a missions agency.
Almost every missionary is sent through a mission agency. Ask your pastor if he recommends an agency. What agency you use depends on what you want to do, where you want to go, and what your denomination is. Under some agencies, you sign up and go wherever they tell you, others you get to choose where you want to go. Also make sure to look at their belief statements and guidelines: for example, it's helpful to know that International Missions Board does not allow their missionaries to drink. If you plan to teach or exercise supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is helpful to know where your mission agency stands on that, since you may be prohibited from teaching or exercising certain things that are not in line with your agency’s belief statement.

Check out the following:
International Missions Board
Greater Europe Mission
The Mission Society

Review these websites:

You can also Google "List of Mission Agencies."
Find out if your church partners with another international church. Or if there is another overseas church you know you want to work with but no particular missions agency sends people there,  you may want to check out Great Commission Ministries (www.gcmweb.org). They are not a sending agency but rather a service agency. They will do everything a mission sending agency does but they do not tell you where to go or what to do: you must be endorsed by your local church and going to serve a church to be accepted by GCM.  I am actually with GCM and have had a great experience with them.

3. Become equipped.
Once you choose an agency, usually they will lay a clear path for you to take from there. Many agencies offer fundraising training, but if they do not, then I highly recommend finding and taking one on your own. At the least, read a book. Check out People Raising, too (http://peopleraising.com/). They have an excellent book and offer 1 and 2-day conferences on fundraising.

Most agencies also offer Cross Cultural Ministry Training. I would recommend you, whatever you do, to strongly consider taking Cross Cultural Training at Missions Training International (http://www.mti.org/). I do not think I would have been successful on the field without this training. Even those who have training by their specific agency said they would not miss this training for the world. They offer three trainings, Cross Cultural Taining (called SPLICE), Linguistic Training (called PILAT), and a debriefing conference when you leave the field (called DAR). I cannot stress how important proper training is both before and after entering an overseas missions field. (Most people raise money in order to pay for training.)

A note about theological training.
A formal theological training, such as Bible College or Seminary, is certainly not necessary to enter into ministry or international missions. However, if you desire to be a pastor or teacher, I would highly recommend at the very least auditing some seminary classes (or the equivalent, such as classes or studies at your church). People may disagree with me on this point, and perhaps I am biased since I am a seminary student. I fully understand and wholeheartedly believe that both the work of bringing people to Christ and making a ministry effective is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit; however, I am of the conviction that if you truly believe the message you carry is the most important message in the world, why would you not want to do everything in your power to make sure you are an effective and knowledgeable messenger?
If money or time is an issue in taking classes, then read. Read read read. Read theology books, preaching books, evangelism books, missions books, and missionary biographies. Especially read something like Toxic Charity or When Helping Hurts which will certainly make you more effective in ministry.

Lastly, be open and flexible. Even if you become set on a certain area of the world or a certain role be open that God may have other ideas. I know of missionaries set on Europe that end up in Latin America and are eternally grateful for it. I myself ended up serving in a totally different role than I first expected but I know now it was God’s intention all along (and I’m very happy in that role might I add!)

So that would be my two cents on the matter.  Of course this advice is colored by my own limited experience and knowledge, and it isn’t a rulebook by any means. However, I hope you find it helpful.

Let me know if you have any more questions and God bless your endeavor!
- KC

Thursday, July 26, 2012

“Would you consider me a ‘sweet’ person? Like, would you use that adjective to describe me?”
I had to ask a trusted male friend. It was late and I was slightly worried. Sweet tends to be on every man’s want list, and I’m still not quite sure what most mean by it.  

I spent many years dealing with insecurities about my personality. At times, downright shame would plague me, whispering, “You’re too much!”

And I’m not alone. I’ve personally known far too many women to think I am the only one. No, this is a common lie we hear: “You’re too much!” “Tone yourself down!” “You’re not feminine enough!” So a few years ago I began a personal quest to answer the question: What does a quiet and gentle spirit look like for someone who has a bold and extroverted personality?

I myself had always equated a “quiet and gentle spirit” with introversion and intellectual submissiveness. In fact, I had mistakenly likened a quiet and gentle spirit to a personality type: shy, meek, soft-spoken, and saccharine. Discovering that gentle and quiet spirits are not about personality type taught me something: they are not about making smart girls dumb, loud girls quiet, or passionate girls boring.

You see, I have a stubborn, passionate, extroverted personality. Because of this, when my heart is opinionated, critical, or  judgmental my personality displays it.  Perhaps if I were a more introverted or shy woman, I might get away with having a wicked heart and still being seen as demure. But make no mistake, if I were to succeed in acting more “toned down” while still having that same heart, I would still not have achieved a quiet and gentle spirit. Because when we find ourselves lacking a quiet and gentle spirit, its not because there is too much of something (i.e. our personality) but because there is not enough of something.

As I asked God to give me a quiet and gentle spirit, He revealed what that something was: humility, compassion, and love.  He began to work those things in me and as He did I noticed a change in my spirit and my actions.

Indeed, one day after church a young woman sought me out. She was having a very difficult time with a transition in her life and cried as she described her sense of fear and sadness. Trying to fix the situation or offer advice is my usual track, but for some reason that day, as I stood and listened, I felt an immense amount of empathy for her. I told her that it hurt my heart, that I was so sorry things were so tough, but that I knew she was going to be ok, that God was right there with her. Later that week she thanked me for my gentleness. Do you know what made my heart gentle that day? Compassion. The Lord gave me a humble compassion, and it caused me act gently towards her. And I realized: gentleness is powerful. It feels deeply and loves ferociously.

The Lord has been sewing another trait deep into my heart: love. A genuine love for the people of God. Oftentimes my opinions, even when they are right, are only expressed to make me look better than someone else. Some battles should take place fort the sake of truth. But do you know what fighting for the truth looks like? It’s Luther refusing to recant in the Diet of Worms; it’s the pastor in a closed country that faces prison or execution rather than renouncing his faith; it’s the pastor who faces the loss of his job because he preaches unpopular truth; it’s the kid who loses friendships because he won’t change what he believes.  There are a myriad of examples that could be given, but I am unwaveringly certain that none of them involve “defeating” someone in a theological argument in a coffee shop, typing out snarky Facebook statuses, or loudly voicing a critical opinion over a pastor, church, or theology. As he gifts me with the love of his people, my desire to tear down with my words begins to melt away and He begins to grow a new desire in me to encourage and build up.

And this year God has been revolutionizing my heart with this new trait: comfort and rest in His love. Now, when  I experience His love and pleasure towards me, I no longer feel the need to clamor for the attention of others. I may still be the passionate and bold woman He made me, but I no longer have to use that passion to scream, “Here I am! Pay attention to me!” I can honestly say that my heart is quieter, which allows me to pour that passion into serving, creating, and worshiping. He has literally “quieted me with His love.” (Zeph 3:17)

So ladies, be passionate and extroverted.  Feel deeply, voice opinions, and gesticulate wildly! But let compassion, empathy, love and confidence be poured into the wonderful way God wired you. Because if you do, you will find yourself in possession of something rare and beautiful: a spirit passionately quieted by His love and made ferociously gentle towards His children.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I went to drug rehab when I was sixteen. Twice.
I hear many times that I do not look like "that type of girl."  Such a statement is nothing but an indication of how much restoration and love God has poured into my life.

It was the darkest and most painful time of my life-- and I cried out to God daily. The prayers I wrote to God in those eighteen months were stuffed into a "God box" that I still have today.  Some of the most profound prayers I keep in a small scrapbook so I can always reflect on the faithfulness of my God and the beauty of my salvation. I thought I would share some with you. I hope they encourage you that God brings beauty from ashes and that surely he "will turn your shame into praise." -Zephaniah 3:19

 And my favorite:
as hope began to appear on the horizon
a two word prayer

     O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
        and you have healed me.
    O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
        you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
    Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
        and give thanks to his holy name.
    For his anger is but for a moment,
        and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
        but joy comes with the morning.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I feel a bit like Abraham when God told him to walk west. I don't know where I'm going or why, and I don't know when He's going to tell me to stop.

Sometimes life leaves bruises. Sometimes dark nights of the soul last weeks.

I don't know why this thing is so hard.  Why I feel like I'm being flung around and thrown against the walls of life.

I’m in love with some things in this world. In fact, I’m dependent on them. There were things in my life in the States that were making me very happy, but they weren't eternal things. They were worldly things; things dripping in fame and approval and attention. And you always ask God to remove your idols. But what you don't realize is that some idols are like leg braces, letting you live your life as though you have the ability to walk--albeit a slow, stiff, gimpy walk. And the sickening part is that you’ve been proud of your ability to walk.

But then God does the very thing you asked Him for and He removes those idols. But it's not what you expect because it turns out you thought having idols removed was going to be like taking off a heavy coat--that its absence would leave you light and free, finally able to run. But it's not--it's more like ripping the braces from your legs so that you lay limp and bruised on the floor shocked by the fact you've never before realized how weak and atrophied your leg muscles are.

It's like you've been stuffing your soul with things of this world, and when you stop you feel hungry all the time. And empty.

And you know God is what most satisfies, but He doesn't seem too inclined to move on it that quickly and take up that empty space.

It's like He knows that that ache and its in-between emptiness... It's like He knows that part has to be felt, as if it's part of the healing.

It's like the hooks of this world get ripped out of you and God just lets you bleed a little.

And it feels like you can't walk; you're slowly starving to death and bleeding out at the same time.  And still what overpowers you more than the hunger or the ache is the incredulity of how impressed you used to be with yourself. 

It’s incredible how much of my soul is tangled up in the approval and attention of others. Even my motive behind not wanting to need others' attention was to better secure their attention. There are even times even during sweet worshipful moments alone with the Lord where a part of the joy comes from knowing I'm becoming the kind of Christian that will garner more approval and attention.

Ever since realizing the condition of my heart, it has stunned me into silence. I have no words to pray. I feel my heart calling out but I don't dare speak for fear I will begin to put on an act, even for myself.

I see that there is still a desire in me to be worth something because of my own worthiness. And even when I tell myself that I should strive to not care about others' approval, something sick and old and fleshly says, “Yes! Do that! Because all the best Christians only care what God thinks. Then people will really worship you!”

My soul is a bruise and my mind is a pretzel.

But I am not lost. I'm just in the wave.

Giant waves are terrifying to me. I physically shudder when I see pictures of surfers on 12-foot waves, and I frequently have a reoccurring dream of being on the beach and watching a tsunami-sized wave roll towards me from miles away.

I’ve never personally experienced waves that big, so I don’t know where the fear comes from. But I have spent my fair share of time at the beach. I’ve waded in the murky waters of Galveston; paddled in the pristine waters of Isla Mujeres; and wrestled the overwhelming waves of Acapulco and the rip tide of Guatemala. I may not know the giant Hawaiian waves of my nightmares, but I do know waves strong enough to overtake you.

There's a moment in the water when a wave hits you: it sweeps you up and pulls you down, knocking your body around like a plaything, tugging at you and spinning you until you don't know which way is up, and you fear it will never let you go. You just hope it will let you up before you run out of the oxygen in your lungs.

When you don't know any better, you panic. You thrash your tiny arms about trying to win the fight against the water.  You try desperately to keep track of which way is up as the wave slams you around and pins you to the bottom.

Then one day I realized I was doing it wrong.
I learned the only way to get through it is to take a deep breath, tuck in, and let the wave take you. You can't fight. You have to let it take you, beat you, and turn you around like the spin cycle until up is down and down is up. You let it throw you around without resisting because, when you've been through enough waves, you realize that eventually they all roll over. And no matter how disoriented you are, if you just relax, your body rights itself and floats you to the surface. 

So that's all. Right now I'm in the wave. I don't know where I am or which way is up and it feels like I'm being thrown around a bit.

But I have learned that spiritual confusion and dark nights of the soul are like waves: your lungs will scream for air and your mind will race with panic--you don’t have to fight. Though everything in your spirit tells you everything is wrong and confusing and frightening--you don’t have to figure anything out. You don’t have to fight to keep control.  You can just let the wave take you.

So I'm riding it out, because I at least have enough faith to know I'll find the surface again soon. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

If you would have asked me 6 months ago what my position on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and spiritual warfare was, I would have said that I was theologically charismatic, practically skeptical, personally inexperienced, and generally put off by what I saw as an un-academic and erroneous handling of Scripture in some charismatic circles. 

Although I can’t speak for anyone else, being theologically charismatic yet experientially ignorant was a frustrating place for me.  When it came to some parts of Scripture I just wasn’t experiencing what I was reading.

I wanted to see the power of God in the Holy Spirit.  And after months and months of asking to see His power and His Holy Spirit and not seeing much, I began to wonder if He planned on answering at all.  And the widening gap of what I read in Scripture and what I experienced in my life became all the more discouraging. 

But then God answered. And things got really different, really fast.

I mean, I thought that “feeling the Holy Spirit” meant feeling warm and fuzzy about God, but when “feeling the Holy Spirit” began to mean full body twitching while my knees buckle so hard I need to sit before I fall down? Well, that was certainly new.

Now, I remember Christology in the book of Acts and Patristic and Medieval Theology courses in seminary. But I must have missed the When Weird Spiritual Stuff Starts Happening to You class.

Because it has, and it’s pretty awesome.

My involvement in a recovery community and even in the local church prepared me for dealing with sin and the flesh. I was deeply trained in confession, evangelism, and sanctification. However I felt a little… underprepared… when I started having dreams and shaking when I prayed.

I was familiar with the long road of restoration where the Holy Spirit brings healing through months or years of “dealing” with issues.

But what I was not prepared for was the Holy Spirit to bring healing in a sudden wave of spontaneous brokenness that sends me to the floor, weeping in a puddle of my own tears and snot, healing me in such a way that I could literally and physically feel the spiritual surgery going on inside of me, rooting out the sickness and breathing new, healthy flesh to cover lifelong wounds. Wounds that no amount of introspection or counseling had ever been able to heal.

It’s like I met this new side of God I didn’t know existed.  And once I woke up to this whole other reality, it’s like Satan decided to throw off all pretense and demons just started coming out of the woodwork.

I’m pretty sure demonic plan A of keeping me ignorant about spiritual realities went out the window right about the time I started speaking in tongues. And apparently their plan B is to a bit more… overt.

But plan B backfired even harder than plan A did and now it’s pushed me deep into the Lord’s truth and even deeper into His presence. And He is so real and so sweet and so full of life and joy and light that it crushes even the darkest darkness.

And I don’t think I’ll ever be the same now. Because now I'm hungry for it. And because who He is is so overwhelmingly, indescribably beautiful and good and so many other things that can't even be described in human words--and there is so much abundance in Him and worship is so different now and I’d do anything to have the treasure of His presence even if I had to buy the crappiest, darkest, hardest field that ever existed.

And hey, let’s all take a breath. I’m going to continue to be tactful, Gospel-centered, and Scripturally sound. But what I’m not going to be is a closet charismatic. I'm coming out of the closet, and I think I’ll let my freak flag fly.

I DARE you to ask Him for it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

 The two years I spent towards a graduate degree at Criswell College were two of the best years of my life. To be trained to handle the Scripture and dig deeply and intelligently was one of the biggest blessings I have ever experienced. So many professors and students profoundly impacted my mind and my faith for the better.

I was taught to think, to research, to argue, to think logically and defend a position. My professors gave me the skills to see faults in interpretations and spot erroneous leaps in logic. They challenged any opinion I held that was merely a regurgitation of someone else’s opinion and I was forced to build a foundation that could withstand some shaking.  

The effect of this was two fold. The first effect was that I saw the beauty and majesty of God in a new way. He was somehow bigger than I realized. Deeper, richer, and infinitely more beautiful than what I had previously understood. And it placed in me a passionate yearning that others might see Him in the same way.

The second effect was that I became an arrogant seminarian. In some ways, I’m sure I was insufferable. I promise my home group can attest. But that wasn’t seminary’s fault. School provided the tools of logic and knowledge, but the arrogance was something that came from my heart, something I’m sure was there far before knowledge was. My arrogance turned good tools into hurtful weapons.

And because I was deeply entrenched in the community of my local church, they called me on it. More than once. And I didn’t always listen.

You know who never got through to me? Who I never listened to? People who complained loudly about how arrogant seminarians are, discounting the value of academic knowledge or a formal biblical education, saying that loving God was more important than knowing about Him. For me, that was an ignorant opinion and a false dichotomy. Formal biblical training had caused me to see God more clearly, and love Him more deeply.

You know what did get through to me? When people who genuinely loved me affirmed that I had been given good intellectual gifts from the Lord and had learned good tools from school--but I lacked the maturity to use those things in a way that built up the church. They told me they saw me using my gifts and tools to bolster myself up and make others feel stupid.

It is not education that causes arrogance, but immaturity.

And I was immature.

Not only were a million hills were worth dying on; in my mind, a million hills were worth killing on.  

In seminary, debating is like sparring. We enjoy it. Hell, we love it.  It gives us an opportunity to practice and strengthen our new muscles at thinking and digging for truth.

But often I took the sparring out the classroom and used it to silence or bully believing brothers and sisters, steamrolling them with theological verbiage and concepts I knew they didn’t understand. 

If I did that to you-- I am genuinely sorry. Please know it was a sinful attempt to deal with my own bruised ego. See, I came into seminary prideful. And every time a student or professor smarter and more knowledgeable than I shredded my best argument and handed it back to me on a platter, effectively rendering me not-as-smart-as-I-think-I-am, I needed to shred someone else to feel better.  

Now that I’ve laid out my prideful heart, I hope it is clear these next paragraphs are not my attempt at moral high ground.

Theology is beautiful, and Facebook is great. Unfortunately when you combine the two with the immaturity most of us have, gifts and tools that are meant to build up the church get used for anything but. Sometimes I see theological status updates that are meant only to invite argument, which is one thing when it’s truthful debate and exploration between friends over coffee, but quite another when it quickly turns into a divisive cyber argument that makes us all look like assholes.

And God help the poor unsuspecting non-seminarian who makes the mistake of weighing in with their pointedly un-academic opinion. They might have well cut their wrists in a shark tank. Then out comes over-the-head verbiage meant to embarrass the "uneducated" non-seminarian into staying out of a conversation that is none of his business and above his pay grade. But this is not a stranger interrupting your private conversation over coffee with a friend from a table over. If you wanted a conversation just with fellow seminarians, don’t post it on Facebook. Sadly, I think sometimes we post it there for just that reason, because we want to be seen as smart. We take the very things that caused us to love God and use it to make others feel stupid.

So let’s stop. Let’s ask ourselves before we post (or open our mouths for that matter): Am I posting this to promote a love of God or a love of me? Am I looking to encourage fellow believers or showcase my own knowledge?

There is a time for challenging someone, and I think it should happen often. But it needs to be in the context of a loving and disciplining friendship, which can’t be properly done through Facebook updates.

I can honestly say a year away from the seminary atmosphere has been good for my heart. I can’t say I have less opinions, but I feel much less compelled to voice them every chance I get. I think I am finally learning to fight in defense of the truth rather than in defense of my ego. At least most days ;)