cartoon-person-reading-a-bookI received this question today through email: “Any advice for a person just starting seminary?”

I thought my response might make for a helpful post. I am a graduate of Southern Seminary, Louisville, KY, 2003. I’m not sure how many of you out there are considering seminary but maybe it will be an encouragement to you either way. Enjoy!

1) Don’t let the study of God replace the God of the study. Make sure your intimacy with Him (solitude, meditation on Scripture, prayer, and going places and doing that which stirs your affections and wonder in Christ) is first and foremost. Everything must flow from there. If you cheat yourself of this time while in seminary, you will cheat yourself of this time in future ministry.

2) If/when you get married, your wife comes next. Period. Not study. Not ministry. Your girl. Take the D in the class, not the D in your marriage. If you cheat her of time with you in seminary, you will cheat her of time with you in future ministry.

3) Get involved in a local church that needs you. Don’t go where all the other students are going. Get involved in a local church that you can serve–whether that means teaching a class, creating a curriculum, or sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms.

Most of all, get into the grit of ministry where you can experience how to deal with people (conflict, complacency, hurt feelings, wrong beliefs, betrayal, frustration, and just people who generally dislike you for no apparent reason–i.e., leadership). Seminary does not and cannot teach you how to deal with people in church world.

4) Take care of your health. Get rest. Eat right. Exercise. Make them non-negotiable now. Those will be the first to go due to the academic load you’ll be under. If you rob yourself of these while in seminary, you’ll rob yourself of these in future ministry.

5) Be sure you make time to laugh, have some fun, and play. If you cheat yourself of this while in seminary… (you get the drill). And you will quickly become irrelevant, not to mention dour and harsh with your people in future ministry.

6) Share the gospel. This is another one of the firsts to go. You may even have to schedule this into your calendar. Get out of the library, out of your dom room, and meet unbelievers out and about. Do not lose touch with, or lose your heart for, those without Jesus. Take some risks while you’re at it!

7) Make deep, abiding friendships with a few that will last you the rest of your life. Not cheating yourself of deep, abiding friendships while in seminary, will grant you the gift of trusted brothers-in-arms to lean on in the toughest times of future ministry. This is the number one mistake I made in seminary: I didn’t make an effort to make these kind of relationships. Instead, I lived with this motto: “I am not here to make friends. I am here to study and learn.” I was a fool. I regret it.

Any other former seminarians want to add anything?

A gift two times over: One, the adoption of our girls, Marni Veronika and Jubilee Larissa, from an orphanage in Ukraine a tad over a year ago; and two, our dear and incredibly talented friend, Austin Abbott, who was waiting at our home with other friends and family to capture the girls homecoming on film. Thank you, Austin, for this wonderful gift to our family this Christmas!

And thank you, family and friends, for taking the time to watch this six minute film and enjoy this gift with us. If you want the back story, details, struggles, joys, tears, and miracles of God as we experienced it during our adoption journey, click HERE

(To view more of Austin’s work go HERE.)

Our daughter, Marni, whom we adopted from an orphanage in Ukraine in 2012, has a best friend named Masha. Masha remains in an orphanage there (In fact, that’s Marni with her arm around Masha at the orphanage, below). Masha is the last little girl left from a close group of little girls at the orphanage who have all since been adopted. Can you fathom her fear and loneliness? Breaks my heart! (To read more details about Marni and Masha, click HERE). But Masha is soon to get one of the greatest Christmas gifts she will ever get in this lifetime. She is getting a mommy, a daddy, and two brothers! Personal friends of our family, and Grace Community Church family members, Cynthia and Andy New are leaving for Kiev, Ukraine in less than four days (December 16)!

Yes, you read that right. First of all, Cynthia and Andy are sacrificing Christmas with their sons in order to get to Ukraine for Masha. Secondly, they are flying into the teeth of the darkness and the upheaval of that country with faith and confidence in Christ, and on mission to bring this precious little girl home!

Would you join my family in praying for them? Pray for their finanical, emotional, relational, and practical needs. Pray for their safety. Pray for their patience and strength. Pray for their favor with all the officials and red tape they will encounter. Pray for Masha, who still doesn’t know (or just very recently found out), that she is being adopted by the New family. Pray for instant connection and joy when she meets her new mommy and daddy. Also, if you are able to give toward Masha’s adoption, you can do that by clicking on the poster below. To catch up a bit on the News Family Adoption story, click HERE! Please pass on! Thanks!

UntitledLearn to preach to yourself. Become your own favorite preacher. And especially master preaching hope. Hope is not a wish. Hope is not positive thinking despite your painful experience. Hope is not unconvinced optimism in the face of odds.  Hope is the confident expectation that God will come through on your behalf regardless of how your circumstances unfold. Hopelessness is not of God’s reality. Neither should it be of yours. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 43:5). That’s David preaching hope to himself. Go and do likewise.

Before you snap…

November 20, 2013

rubber-band-01Change is part of the deal. You cannot control its timing. Take a deep breath and embrace it. If you do not, you will find yourself questioning God, pouting with God, and working against God. Be more of a rubber band than a rod. A rubber band is flexible. It stretches and adjusts to the forces upon it. A rod only bends… then snaps. Trust Jesus. Adjust. Before you snap….