Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Short Poem

This is a short poem I wrote for worship today:

We worship a God who in heaven resides,
He is not in one single place.
Where ever we go, he is by our sides,
And he knows our name and our face.
So think about that, where ever you go,
Let the world see Jesus in all you uphold.
Otherwise, how are they going to know,
His love is more precious than gold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where their loyalties lie????

The office of Alaska Governor, and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, has decided it will not cooperate in the investigation into whether or not Palin fired the state's public safety commissioner after he refused to fire a state policeman who was divorcing her sister.  This is according to this cnn report.

There are several quotes in the report I have serious problems with.  Consider the following:

"As state employees, our clients have taken an oath to uphold the Alaska Constitution, and for that reason, they respect the legislature's desire to carry out an investigation in support of its law-making powers," Attorney General Talis Colberg, a Palin appointee, told the investigation's manager in a letter released Wednesday. "However, our clients are also loyal employees subject to the supervision of the governor."
And this quote:
"Moreover, two lawsuits have been filed challenging the legitimacy of the investigation," Colberg wrote. "On behalf of our clients, we respectfully ask that you withdraw the subpoenas directed to our clients and thereby relieve them from the circumstance of having to choose where their loyalties lie."
I would argue that as state employees, these workers' loyalty should be to the citizens of Alaska who pay their salary, not to the governor.  The rule of law, not loyalty should be the guiding principal here, and Governor Palin needs to remember that she, as well as her employees, do not work for themselves or for her, but for the people of Alaska.  If Palin broke the law, and her employees know it, they should be compelled to testify.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Time to start blogging again...Christian Education in the 21st Century

Having graduated from Wake Forest, the time has come to start blogging again. In my second and third year of school, the amount of work I had to do and some personal situations kept me from blogging as much I would have liked. The last thing I wanted to do in my free time was do more writing. I needed to spend time with my wife, spend time relaxing, and spend time studying the Sunday School lesson for the next week. But, at least for now, I have the time to do a little blogging. There have been those who have said that I should wait until I have a job to start blogging again, after all, search committees could be reading what I write. But, to me, that is a good thing. I want to be completely open and honest as I look for a job, so I welcome any search committee to read through my blog.

Over the past year, I have spent much of my time studying Christian education, educational theory, and the challenges facing Christian education in the 21st century. This study started when I was preparing to preach a sermon last year. I had been asked by the pastor in a church where I was serving to add a connection to the great commission in a sermon I was about to preach. As I studied the passage in Matthew 28, I noticed something very interesting as I compared modern translations and the King James Version of verses 19-20.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (King James Version)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (New Revised Standard Version)
Notice the difference in the translations? The NRSV translates the first part of Jesus' commandment as "make disciples" and the KJV translates it as "teaching." So, I got online and investigated other translations, and found that all modern translations, including the NKJV, use the disciples translation. So, I went and checked the Greek for myself. The verb "to teach" was one of the first I learned, so I knew what that was. Sure enough, the verb "to teach" (didasko) appeared in verse 20, but the verb that was translated as "make disciples" (matheteuo) was one I was not familiar with, at least not as a verb. The root of the verb is the noun for disciple and I recognized that. I began to ask myself why the author of Matthew used two different words; there had to be a reason. What is the difference between "teaching" and making disciples? The result of my study has become the foundation for the first stage of my ministry.

What is the difference? I think the difference is twofold. The first difference is Relationships! It is entirely possible to teach someone something in a one hour training class. Making disciples, however, requires much more time and commitment. Jesus is telling the disciples to be “to all nations” exactly what he has been with them. Jesus was a teacher, but he was also a friend and a mentor. He didn’t quit when they “got it wrong”, which they did alot. Instead he was patient and loved them through the learning process.

The second difference is depth of teaching. Most churches do a fairly good job of teaching the foundation of the faith. But, what is a foundation for? It is for holding up the rest of the structure, it is not the entire structure. Churches who never get beyond the foundation are missing one of the major points of the great commission.

Let me try to give you a couple of examples. Foundational teaching: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Discipleship teaching: Genesis also tells us that man was put in the garden to care for it. As Christians, therefore, we should be caring for the earth and doing everything we can to slow down or stop damage to the environment.

Foundational teaching: Luke 6.27: ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Discipleship teaching: As Christians we MUST NOT remain silent when our government says there are times when torture is acceptable. For Christians, torture is NEVER acceptable.

But, for the most part, Sunday school teachers don't teach these kinds of lessons, and we rarely hear this kind of message from the pulpit. I will go into the reasons for that in my next post.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Graduation

Me and Dean Bill Leonard

I have graduated! 15 family members were here to celebrate with me. We had our hooding ceremony on Saturday night and graduation was on Monday. There was one surprise. I was awarded The Katherine Amos Christian Education Award during graduation. The award recognizes excellent work in Christian education while at Wake Forest Divinity. You can view some more picture by clicking here.

From school, I move on to the job search. I am talking to several churches, and the search is going well so far. Please pray that Gay and I will find the place where the Lord wants us to serve. As you can imagine it is a time of pretty high stress.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

In Sickness and in Health

On December 4th of last year, I took my wife Gay to the hospital with 4 sores on her legs. Little did I know then what the next four months would be like.

Gay was admitted to the hospital, and the doctors thought she had MRSA, an antibiotic resistant form of staph. The infection had entered her bloodstream, and she was extremely ill. On December 5th at about 10:30 PM, she was taken in for emergency surgery to remove the infected areas. Luckily, after this surgery she began to get better. The cultures came back and the infection was not MRSA, and the doctors were able to change her antibiotics to target the specific infection she had. She still required one more surgery, although the surgeon told us that he did not have to do much. Gay stayed in the hospital for nearly two weeks.

All of this obviously happened during final paper and exam time at Wake, but the faculty, staff, and student body were extremely supportive. I received calls, emails and visits from those associated with the divinity school and all of my professors gave me more time to finish my work. My church, First Baptist High Point, was also wonderful. I always knew that help was only a phone call away. Whether I needed someone to sit with me during surgery, or just someone to talk to, the staff and membership were there to support me.

Gay came home the week before Christmas, but all of her wounds still required cleaning, packing, and dressing twice daily. When we left the hospital we were told that a home health care nurse would take care of this for us. On the first visit, however, the nurse told us that our insurance would not cover daily visits and I would be the one caring for the wounds.

There were four wounds that needed care. The least severe was about a 5 inch long wound on her right thigh. The second was about a 1 by 2 inch wound in her groin. The third was about a four inch wound shaped like a spoon on her right thigh. The final wound, on her butt, was about 1 inch by 2 inches but about 4 inches deep. Twice a day, I had to remove the old packing, clean each wound, soak gauze in saline, pack each wound full of this gauze and then bandage over them. Had you asked me whether or not I would have been able to do this, I would have said no. But, it is amazing what you can do for the one you love when you have no other choice.

Luckily when I came home my parents were here to help out. I was too tired to be much good to anyone and they took care of food, shopping, and prescriptions. Church folks were also bringing us meals every other day. The plans were for my mother to stay through my upcoming trip to Egypt to help out while my dad would go home. Unfortunately, on December 23, my father had a kidney stone attack that would require surgery, so my mother went home to be with him. This left Gay and I home alone for Christmas, but we tried to make the best of it.

Two weeks and one day after Gay came home for the hospital, I had to do what was, for me, unthinkable: I had to leave Gay and go half-way around the world to Egypt for two weeks. I had already paid for the trip, through a grant and some contributions, the trip was non-refundable, and I needed the credit to graduate, so there was not much choice. My mother agreed to stay with Gay for the duration of the trip, which was great, and I am glad I did it, but that did not make it any easier. Luckily the hotel where we stayed in Cairo was across the street from a shopping center with not 1, not 2, but 3 internet cafes. All of the computers were equipped with cameras and microphones, so I was able to talk to Gay every night via Skype. Being able to see and hear her let me know she was doing ok.

School was supposed to start a few days after we got back, but my first day of class was snowed out which gave me more of a chance to recover. I started back to school, but I still had a lot of work from the previous semester to get caught up on.

At the end of January, I went to Atlanta to attend the New Baptist Covenant meeting. It was a great experience (this will be yet another blog post coming up) and Gay stayed with family in Columbus while I was in Atlanta. I came back on Saturday afternoon, we attended the Christening of our second God-daughter on Sunday, and prepared to go home on Monday. By Sunday night a pain Gay had in her abdomen had become intense, and by Monday morning the area was bright red. So, we took her to a walk-in clinic on Monday afternoon. She had another infection, although this one was early on. The doctor drained it and told us to come back the next morning, which we did. When the doctor saw her again, he said the antibiotics appeared to be working and said we could go back to Winston and follow up with her doctor there. Back in Winston, the doctor put her on IV antibiotics that were supposed to be done by home health care. Well, yet again the insurance would not pay for that (and yet there are those who say there is no health care crisis in this country.) Instead she had to go to the hospital every day for the IV. Keep in mind this is in the middle of one of the worst flu outbreaks North Carolina has had in recent years. So many of days started off with me taking Gay to the hospital and dropping her off, going to class, going back to the hospital, picking her up, taking her to the doctor's office, taking her somewhere to get lunch, taking her home, and then returning to class. It was very hard to get caught up with that kind of schedule.

We thought that everything was almost over and Gay woke up one morning and the area on her abdomen was swollen and draining again. We took her to the doctor, and he told her she would miss another week of work and changed her antibiotics again.

Well, I am pleased that I can now report that Gay is doing much better. She is back at work, although she is not back at full speed. As of last week, I am caught up in Divinity School, so graduation in May should happen without a hitch. I have started the job search process, so if any of my readers know of any positions that fit me, let me know by using the e-mail address on the right. I will post some pictures from Egypt and my thoughts on the New Baptist Covenant very soon.

For family and friends, please let me know if you are interested in coming to graduation or a graduation party that will be held at FBC High Point. You can leave me a comment on this post, and I will get in touch with you. Don't worry, all comments are private unless I choose to make them public, so you can leave your e-mail address without worry.

Thanks again for those who have prayed and helped Gay and me through this very difficult time.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I am in Egypt

I am in Egypt with Wake Forest Divinity, and I am one of two official bloggers for the trip. Check out the blog at http://wfudsegypt08.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm Back

I have not posted an update for quite a while. I am nearly halfway through my final year of Divinity School at Wake Forest University, and I have just been extremely busy and doing more writing is one of the last things I want to do. So, here's what has been going on.

Gay is enjoying her new job as Minister to Children at First Baptist Church of High Point. I am interning there as well. I am teaching the young adult class on Sunday mornings, and we had 35 in class two weeks ago! There is a lot of energy in the class even though we have been discussing stewardship! I have also taught on Wednesday nights and preached at a service held by the Vietnamese mission at the church. We are both learning a lot and have enjoyed getting to know a new congregation and a new staff.

Perhaps the most exciting news is my upcoming trip to Egypt. I will be spending nearly two weeks in Egypt after Christmas with a class from the Divinity School. The trip is a part of the Cultural Immersion program at the divinity school at Wake. Egypt is a very unique place because of the large role it played in the development of early Christianity, and the existence of the Coptic Orthodox church alongside a population that is predominantly Muslim. Of course, we will also have the opportunity to see the pyramids and other historic sites as well. There is little doubt that one of the biggest issues the world will face in the 21st century is the relationship between Christians and Muslims, and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to study this relationship first hand, even if it is only for a couple weeks.

I have registered for my classes for next semester, and my schedule looks like this:

Gender and Family in Early Christianity
Introduction to Pastoral Counseling
Formational and Transformational Practices in Christian Education
Multicultural Contexts for Ministry: Egypt
Topics: New Baptist Covenant (attending the event in Atlanta)
Pastoral Preaching
Art of Ministry III (Internship)

I am also beginning my job search, so if any readers know of a church looking for someone like me, let me know and I will send a resume.