TheoThoughts 2014 in review: top 5 posts and a few random thoughts

2014-2015-calendar-flipWell, I guess I wouldn’t be fulfilling my “obligation” as a blogger if I didn’t cite the top 5 posts of 2014. Thanks to WordPress for doing the legwork because otherwise, I don’t think I would make the effort to figure out the most popular posts. Honestly, a couple of these surprised me and here they are;

5. When Scripture is not Enough: a topic so dear to my heart, I addressed it in my master’s thesis. I think it sounds really spiritual and intimate to “hear” God speak directly to us but leaves us reliant on questionable, subjective methods instead of the reliable witness of Scripture. God spoke through his Word (see Heb. 1:1-2) and continues to speak, if we’ll be willing to listen.

4. Have you heard of my pastor? Why its good that you probably haven’t: The Mark Driscoll scandal provided an opportunity to reflect on the whole personality cult thing that has become endemic in contemporary evangelicalism. We seem to like celebrity and generally equate popularity with pastoral effectiveness. I actually think that the more effective pastors are those without the public recognition because they are focused on the main thing, as I pointed out in Dear Obscure Pastor.

3. 50 thoughts from turn 50: nothing more than me waxing philosophical at the half century mark. When you’ve messed up as much as I have, there’s a deep pool to draw from. It was a time to really reflect on how far the Lord has brought be from so much foolishness. Now that I’m 51, I’ll consider myself a year wiser. Ha!

2. 8 Bible Interpretations that make me Scream: self-explanatory. One of my goals in life – to teach as many as I can how to approach Scripture. Context people!

1. Does Jesus Really Take Away my Shame? We Christians, in general, like to float on air and pretend that being in Christ means being untouched by anything. I don’t play that game. Stuff affects us. Bad and wrong stuff affects us more. Acknowledging this has been one of the most liberating things in my Christian walk because it has freed me to run to Christ when those nagging voices of insufficiency and failure nip in my ear. Continue reading

Refreshment for the Soul: What I Love about the Reformed Church

happy-woman in fieldIf you were to tell me 10 years ago that I would be a member of a Presbyterian church and love it, I would have told you that you were nuts. Especially back in my Charismatic days, I drew the typical caricature of the “frozen chosen” as Presbyterians were commonly called – dry, non-spiritual, deadpan, etc.  Even my transition into the baptistic/Bible church circle in 2006, I still carried some of that unfortunate mischaracterization in my mind.

It was not until I started seminary in 2008 that my perspective began to change. One of the main questions I started asking early on is what is the church and what is her purpose. The more I dove into Scripture and historical theology to formulate an answer, the more I learned of the Reformed church and the more attractive it became. In the context of Jesus command to make disciples, I began to see how what we do internally is just as important, if not more important than what we do externally. What we do internally must forge our identity in Christ, provoke worship to him and remind us of our covenantal relationship to one another, as the body of Christ.  But most importantly, what we do corporately must remind us of our need for Him.

Carl Trueman has written a rather lengthy piece on First Things, A Church for Exiles. He indicates that Reformed worship is a good place to get grounded in Christ in recognition of the fact that Christians are sojourners and exiles in the world. While I disagree with him on some points related to the Reformed church having no engagement with the public square, I do agree with him on his main point. Much of what he writes related to church itself that resonates with me on why I find the Reformed church so refreshing. Continue reading

When You’re Graduating from Seminary…and have no idea what’s next

Graduated_next pathIn just a few short weeks I’ll be donning the graduation regalia and walking across the stage. My diploma will come later in the summer since I needed an extension on my thesis. But the thought of having all my classes done is a refreshing one indeed.

A common question that gets asked of me, as I’m sure it does other seminary students and near graduates, is ‘what’s next’? I wrote about this a couple of years ago, in What’s After Seminary? Not a Job but an Adventure. What the question really refers to is what fantastic ministry will you NOW be a part of, where you will be on staff and serving God’s people? I mean after all, why ELSE would you have gone to seminary if you aren’t doing that? In fact, there’s such a strong emphasis on church ministry that not obtaining that can make a seminary grad feel like they failed or wasted their time.

Despite my insistence in my article from 2 years ago that its all about the ministry adventure and not the actual position, I still find myself quite unsettled and a bit anxious these days. I was fortunate enough to land a good part-time position in the field that I had been working for many years and the job was secured even before moving to Dallas. Unfortunately, that position was eliminated and I took another position that didn’t work out. For the past few months, I have been engaged in an intensive job search and recognizing that I may have to continue what I was doing prior to seminary or at least leveraging that experience. In fact, during the drafting of this post I did indeed accept a position and it’s not in a church. Continue reading

Kissing More than 2013 Goodbye

Goodbye-2013-hello-2014So tomorrow ends 2013. I’ve been reflecting a bit on how this year has transpired and one thought kept bubbling to the top – it didn’t go as I expected. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing; it just is what it is.

I started out the year kind of skeptical as I wrote in Cracking the Door to 2013. There is something exciting and anticipatory about a new year. But its like that Forrest Gump infamous line, the new year is a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Sure enough, whereas I had secret hope that some things would finally start turning around, it actually went the other way or at least from outward appearances.

I was told in February that  that the job that had sustained me since the start of seminary was ending. I had already been experiencing a growing frustration and realizing that what I was doing was at cross purposes with where my skills, interests and passions lay. Thinking that this was the time for transition, I took a position that really wasn’t the right direction and didn’t work out too well. I left in November. So whereas at the beginning of 2013, I had hoped that whatever transition that seemed to be in the works would manifest itself, turns out just the opposite. I end the year, a bit more uncertain than when I started though with a couple of likely prospects. I never would have guessed I’d be where I am now, especially so close to graduation. It did challenge me on where I found my significance – in my accomplishments or in Christ?

I’ve also had to contend with a persistent valley and fighting against discontentment and self-pity that needed the boot. I’m grateful for the continual reminders that are necessary to promote gratitude and prevent bitterness.  There are certain aspects in my personal life that I had hoped by now would have changed but haven’t. I honestly would not have expected things to go as they have. Continue reading

50 Thoughts From Turning 50

50 birthday cakeYes, that’s right, today is my birthday. I confess to approaching a half century of life with some ambivalence. My life hasn’t exactly turned out like I hoped it would at this stage so coming into this birthday was a bit hard. On one hand, I wanted to have a big celebration but then wasn’t really up to it. But some wise words from a fellow classmate kind of jolted me out of myself. He asked if I thought Israel had an option of celebrating the various feasts. No, they glorified God regardless. And I shall do the same. I am thankful for life and God’s many blessings.

In the past several days, I’ve been reflecting on some lessons learned from personal experience and observations about life over these past 50 years and thought I’d jot them down. So in no particular order (translated – not prioritized);

1. The fact that life is unfair and not always kind does not stop us from wishing it were.

2. Pay attention to bad patterns in your life.

3. The hardest person to be honest with is yourself.

4. Value the input from others. Sometimes they see things we can’t.

5. You can’t change the past but pay attention to how it has changed you.

6. People are never who you want them to be and will likely surprise you.

7. The things that present the most discomfort usually point to what needs the most change.

8. Remember the innocence of your youth.

9. Its ok to admit when life hurts.

10. Facades may seem like a good solution but only hurt you in the long run. Continue reading