Because life is a series of edits

Archive for October, 2005|Monthly archive page

Riding the Short Bus

In Seminary Tychicus on October 31, 2005 at 9:01 am

From Learner’s write-up for Spiritual and Ministry Formation class:

“On page 85 of Children of the Living God, author Sinclair Ferguson asks, ‘Have you ever seen a well-adjusted family cope with a brother or sister who is physically or mentally retarded? It is deeply moving to watch the mixture of special discipline and grace that makes such a family member not only belong, but actually be treated as special in the family circle. So it should be in the family of God.’

My own experience resonates with Ferguson’s observation of what the family of God should be like. More times than I can count, I have been the retarded family member in need of special discipline and grace – for my inabilities, for my lack of self-control, for my need for help and attention. Fortunately, I have been around many (and am married to one) who choose to “cope” with me despite my special needs, for I can be hard to live with and to love.

While the first five chapters of Ferguson’s book did little for me overall, I can’t get this illustration of the special needs family out of my head; it is a powerful and personal idea of what God is and what his family is to be. I need to pray for more of a heart to cope with others and their own special needs, just as God and so many others do and have done for me. After all, when it comes to maturity, I’ve been riding the short bus most of my life.”

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How to Make the Sadist Greek Professor Laugh

In Seminary Tychicus on October 25, 2005 at 6:43 pm

This morning, after finishing his Greek mid-term exam a full 10 minutes after everyone had left the room, Learner turned his test into his professor, who with a smile, gleefully asked how it was.

“Everything you promised and more,” Learner said. “But it’s kind of like vomiting,” he continued, “you always feel better when it’s over.”

The professor burst out laughing and paid Learner the ultimate of compliments: “I’m going to remember that one,” he said with a grin.

All Talk

In Seminary Tychicus on October 22, 2005 at 11:46 pm

Earlier this evening, after dropping the children off at the seminary’s log cabin for a few hours of free childcare, Learner and Mrs. Learner went to dinner with The Renaissance Man and his wife. The food was Mexican, the conversation enjoyable, and the laughs fun and honest.

During the conversation, Mrs. Learner mentioned that she and Learner were going to pull an all-nighter this evening in order to catch up on quite a bit of housework, study, and time together.

Learner called a minute ago to tell me this, as well as to say he’s still planning to make good on the threat. However, he said, after finishing a reading assignment, Mrs. Learner fell asleep on the couch at about 10:15 p.m. Apparently she’s still there.

“She’s all talk,” Learner said.

Knowing him the way I do, I’d say he will be shortly as well.

Mid-Term Slump/Crunch

In Seminary Tychicus on October 18, 2005 at 7:46 pm

It’s ironic Learner has hit a mid-term slump in his reading and studying just as the mid-term crunch of exams and papers kicks in.

It’s going to be a long two weeks until the end of the month, he says.

Bored with the Gospel

In Seminary Tychicus on October 16, 2005 at 9:05 pm

As part of the continuing Spiritual and Ministry Formation discussion on understanding and living by grace rather than works, Learner is wrestling with author Jerry Bridges’ words on page 67 of his book, Transforming Grace:

“We need to remember that God has already been shown to be the exceedingly gracious and generous landowner. To realize that grace, all we must do is acknowledge we are not more than eleventh-hour workers.”

This phrase best describes the disconnect for Learner in understanding and living by grace. Unfortunately, he’s not sure knowing/recognizing it as such helps all that much.

In the past, Learner has been told by those who have loved him that he has an “entitlement complex” of sorts. The guy who once explained it best said that the story Learner seems to repeatedly believe about himself (i.e. who he is and what he thinks he deserves) somehow gives him permission to engage in behavior and thinking that does not always go along with who he really is (a Christian) and what he really deserve otherwise (hell).

Thus, his experience would back up Bridges’ theory that to live by grace involves changing how he views himself. But (and this is the frustrating part), he’s not sure he’s seen it work when he’s tried (and he supposes his trying is part of the problem, but he REALLY doesn’t get what the alternative is).

Part of the problem is people won’t let Learner confess how wretched he sometimes knows that he is because they themselves don’t or won’t believe it; part of it is that he thinks that he’s honestly just bored with the gospel as both a narrative and a motivator, and he’s not sure he’s experiencing it as reason and power to change. He says he knows he should, but he’s not sure he has, at least not to the extent that he dreams he might.

And yet, by God’s grace (he’s sure), he believes. “Go figure,” he says.

Avon Calling

In Seminary Tychicus on October 13, 2005 at 4:37 pm

Learner and I are sitting in the seminary’s newly remodeled student lounge, talking. By no intention of our own, we can’t help but overhear a loud conversation between a soon-to-graduate missionary-hopeful and the world’s most eager recruiter.

The over-the-top enthusiasm is exceeded only by the number of ministry cliches used. As a result, the missionary recruit is buying it all hook, line, and sinker, thanks to the annoying “God has a plan for your life,” paint-by-numbers tone and mentality of the recruiter.

“Ring, ring. Time to pick up the clue phone,” Learner says. I agree.

Mid-Term Mercy

In Seminary Tychicus on October 11, 2005 at 12:48 pm

Learner’s Greek prof, in a fit of mercy, moved the mid-term exam back a week to better cover subjunctives, participles, and infinitives.

When Exegesis Attacks

In Seminary Tychicus on October 11, 2005 at 6:37 am

This morning, Learner and the rest of his classmates in Greek exegesis turn in their team exegetical assignment. The professor (who is writing a commentary on the book of Ephesians; thus, Learner’s theory is that he and his classmates are doing his research for him) had divided the class into groups of 3 or 4 with an assigned passage from the last two chapters of Ephesians 5 or 6.

Tasked with compiling technical commentary for Ephesians 6:10-20, Learner and two other assigned classmates met to divide the workload. Upon discussion of the assignment in which they made sure they each knew what was expected, they divided the work, agreeing to take two weeks to ensure time to research the recommended and required four commentaries, and write their individual reports.

Upon completion of their individual assignments, Learner compiled the results and emailed initial draft to the other two. They then met the next morning for two hours to walk through the draft in detail, with each contributor highlighting the main ideas as well as the nuances of his passage. Questions were asked, points clarified, wording and formatting adjusted, and the report submitted.

I won’t bore you with the entirety of their final 31-page report, but in case you’re interested, here’s a non-technical snippet from Learner’s findings on Ephesians 6:18 (I didn’t include the Greek translation and word studies due to Blogger’s inability to reproduce the Greek font):

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

–Paul describes attitude to maintain by use of two participles (“praying” and “keeping alert”)
1) could express means but more likely shows manner of action; argues punctuation at end of 17 should be comma rather than period (Hoehner, 855)
2) prayer itself is not identified with any weapon (O’Brien, 483)
3) prayer is not seventh piece of spiritual armor as some claim (Lincoln, 451)
4) prayer is believer’s “vital communication with headquarters” (Bruce, 413)

–Cyclical perspective: prayer is for the purpose of maintaining alertness; prayer causes alertness, alertness keeps believers in prayer (Hoehner, 859)

–One-way perspective: believers need to stay alert; such vigilance is to be accompanied by perseverance and prayer; believers are to persevere so as to overcome fatigue and discouragement, and not to fall into spiritual sleep or complacency (O’Brien, 485)

–Lincoln agrees more with O’Brien than Hoehner: to be alert involves renouncing spiritual sleep of the darkness of this age (cf. also 1 Peter 4:7)

–Paul’s call to prayer in expectation of the Lord’s coming seems reasonable (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 22:20; linked elsewhere in NT: Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2; cf. Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4) (O’Brien, 485)

–Important to note repetition in this verse, done for emphasis to suggest thoroughness and intensity in regards to prayer (Hoehner, 459)

–“all the saints” indicates all believers are involved in this struggle against evil powers (Hoehner, 859)

–“all the saints” refers to those whom have been joined in the new community of God’s people (cf. 1:15; 2:24-18:3:8); four-fold “alls” (“prayer and supplication, with all perseverance, and supplication for all the saints”) underscores most emphatically the significance which the apostle gave to such mutual intercession (O’Brien, 486); four-fold alls typical of writer’s plerophory of style (Lincoln, 453)

–Preposition means “around, about, concerning” and when followed by genitive after verbs or nouns regarding prayer “introduces the person or thing in whose interest the petition is made; thus, takes places of “concerning, on behalf of” (BAGD 644; BDAG 797; cf. also Wallace, Greek Grammar, 363)

–Writer reminds readers of links with all the saints (cf. 1:15; 3:18), which should bear fruit in breadth of their concerns and prayers (Lincoln, 453)

This is probably enough to make the point that this was not an enjoyable assignment. At least as of this morning, though, it’s over.

Mid-term exam in one week. “Ugh,” Learner says.

Is There a Debit Card for That?

In Seminary Tychicus on October 10, 2005 at 11:18 am

With the exception of detailing Learner’s fall schedule (which, to his amazement, he has been able to stick to so far), I recognize that many of the posts throughout September were a bit “soft” in terms of actual reporting on the academic elements of seminary life. Forgive me. I have such a heart for Learner that oftentimes in my subjectivity I forget to include the more objective realities of his experiences.

So, as we’re into a new month (October – one of Learner’s favorites for reasons of fall weather and the World Series), let me take more of a “beat reporter” mindset and bring you news from Learner’s Spiritual and Ministry Formation class, which is designed to help the student identify calling, gifting, ministry philosophy and contribution. Having just finished The Call by Os Guinness, Learner and Mrs. Learner have started Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges, in which Bridges writes with helpful simplicity about a matter that, for Learner at least, is personally complicated: the grace of God.

Bridges is a master of both unique but accurate exposition. For instance (and with regard to the parable of the landowner in Matthew 20:1-16): “The landowner was not only fair with his workers; he was progressively more generous with each group of workers he hired throughout the day. He received, not what he had earned on an hourly basis, but what he needed to sustain his family for a day. The landowner could have paid them only what they had earned, but he chose to pay them according to their need, not according to their work. He paid according to grace, not debt.”

While Learner wants to critique Bridges’ presumption as to the landowner’s motives in paying a full day’s wages (couldn’t he have just been keeping his advertised word rather than giving thought at all to the worker’s needs?), he’s not sure his skepticism makes sense as to why Jesus would tell the parable in the first place. Contextually, Jesus is not trying to prove that God keeps his word but rather that he is a generous and gracious God who gives what we do not deserve, out of grace and not out of debt, as Bridges puts it.

Learner’s tendency toward this kind of critique is unfortunately too telling as to how little he really experiences the grace of God. His sense (obsession) of right and wrong, combined with five generations of farm background in which “you only get what you work for” and “don’t bother anyone with your troubles” constantly works against his acceptance (though not his recognition) of his need for grace. Sadly, to this farm boy, grace is what you are to give to others (it’s what good neighbors do); debt is what you have to pay back (and, he says, “we all know what payback is…”).

More to come…

Open Season

In Seminary Tychicus on October 5, 2005 at 7:45 am

Yesterday, after hearing no questions pertaining to the vast verb tense chart covered in class, Learner’s Greek professor declared “open season” on said chart and everything previous for Thursday’s quiz.

“Open season.” These were the actual words, Learner said.

“Why does it suddenly feel like I have antlers?” he asked.

Learner As Mr. Ed

In Seminary Tychicus on October 4, 2005 at 9:50 am

From Learner’s reading to his children, in which Bree, who once thought of himself as noble war horse and trusty steed, is comforted by the old Hermit as Bree had just tucked tail and run for his life while his rider, Shasta, jumped off to turn and fight off the lion (Aslan) chasing his injured female friend, Aravis, on her horse, Hwin:

“‘My good Horse,’ said the Hermit, who had approached them unnoticed because his bare feet made so little noise on that sweet, dewy grass. ‘My good Horse, you’ve lost nothing but your self-conceit. No, no, cousin. Don’t put back your ears and shake your mane at me. If you are really so humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must learn to listen to sense. You’re not quite the great Horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole…’”

– from The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis, pgs. 151-152