On Friends and Struggles

It’s fairly well understood now that the 20s are some of the hardest times for people. Many of us are in jobs we don’t love, watching the skills we’ve spent a couple decades developing seem to waste away. Or others are in their dreams job enjoying waking up and going to work every morning. Some of us are riding solo, whether impatiently or patiently, while others are blissfully enjoying married life, maybe even with kids. There’s also the seemingly transient nature of the 20s where people move across the country for a better job after you met them a month earlier. The past few years for me have been full of so many of these changes: from graduating college then moving back home where I didn’t have any friends, to moving in with guys I met at a small group, then leaving them 10 months later to take a position 1000 miles away in the church I currently work at to now looking at starting seminary this fall. The past four months have been some sweeping changes for me as God has revealed some incredible things to me on what it means to be a friend and what it means to struggle.

I’ve been doing an early morning study with my roommates going through the  book “The Dudes Guide to Manhood” by Darrin Patrick. This weeks chapter was on being a friend, and the following sentences struck me:

“Guys actually enjoy serving each other. We are willing to load moving trucks and work on major landscaping projects together. What we don’t like is being served.”

I think this is true not only of guys, but of gals as well. I so often find myself wanting to take care of everything by myself, without asking anyone for help. I still sometimes feel as if I have something to prove. I hate admitting I have weaknesses and am in regular need of help from those around me. I don’t even like telling a girl I’m interested in that I have weaknesses and struggles and have glaring areas that I struggle with.

On Struggles

Last month (April) was an incredibly busy month for me with Easter planning. I also had decided it would be a good year to add a new Easter service on Thursday night, celebrating the Last Supper. This meant I had to plan a Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday service and an Easter service, one of which the church hadn’t done before. I struggled praying and searching for different ideas on how to make each service unique but still meaningful, and then also got sick with 2 ear infections and a sinus infection. To top it all off, I was in the midst of applying for a scholarship that would pay for all my tuition for seminary, and I’d been told they had some big concerns with awarding me the scholarship. It felt like God was pulling the rug out from underneath my feet and my foundation was crumbling. I was stretched to the max and worried about how I was now going to pay for seminary. Then God threw another curveball.

Two hours after I got the call sharing the concerns with awarding me the scholarship for seminary, I got a call from said seminary telling me they had decided to award me the scholarship despite their hesitations. All this was 2 hours before the first of 3 services that weekend. Then God reminded me that He loves pouring His blessings out on His children as all three services were incredibly fruitful and a blessing to those who came.

On Friends

Throughout this difficult month, there were a number of people who took time to pray with me and pray for me. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Ultimately this verse finds it’s fulfillment in God’s Son, Jesus Christ who is now our adopted brother through his work on the cross. But I also believe that God sends people into our lives who are an earthly representation of Christ to us. I think of the friends I was blessed with in high school, and then in college, and then post college and now in the church I serve. I know I have weaknesses and struggles that they can help me with and use as an opportunity to pray with me, pray for me, serve me and ultimately point me back to Christ.

“Authentic friendship is not one-sided. It is an equal commitment from both parties. True friends give and receive.

“True friends know you and want to be known by you-celebrate you and are willing to be celebrated by you. They challenge you and seek to be challenged by you. And they serve you and are willing to be served by you.”
-Darrin Patrick The Dudes Guide to Manhood, 103

I fear there are many people in the church today – particularly men – who are unwilling to let someone get close enough to them to experience the incredible blessings that come from being a part of a fellowship of believers. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV) As has been pointed out many times before, this needs to happen within the confines of a local church. This is why it’s crucial to get plugged in to a local church. But while it is at the minimum church involvement, it can and should involve so much more than that. There should be a group of like-minded people with whom you regularly spend time, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 27:17) There should be a group of people who know why you are the way you are and what makes you tick. And what if there isn’t a group like this at your church? Then create one. It’s incredibly easy to find people would be willing to get together over a cup of coffee or a meal and share what’s going on with them. Ask questions and seek to get to know them on a deeper level then what they enjoy eating.

Exciting News!

I found out the beginning of this past weekend that I have received a Kern Scholarship to begin attending Denver Seminary this fall! This scholarship will pay my whole tuition for up to 4 years. I’m incredibly blessed and grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to see how God continues to conform me in the image of His Son through my experience. I would really appreciate prayer for this new chapter of life as I try to continue working in Cheyenne and commuting to Denver a couple days a week. If anyone knows of any reliable, high gas mileage cars for sale, send them my way!

On Avoiding Christian Scholarship

On an incredibly exciting note for myself, I am planning to begin my seminary education this fall! Cue the obscene amounts of caffeine and late nights. One of the things I struggle with in my pursuit of higher education is how to apply a text to my life and not just allow it to be an academic pursuit. Throughout most of my undergraduate education (pretty much until my final year of school) I was simply trying to get a passing grade in my classes until it suddenly struck me that I need to be applying what I learned to my life! (See Luke 12:48)

I found a very interesting post titled ‘On Avoiding Kierkegaard’s Indictment of Christian Scholarship‘ that is worth reading. Kierkegaard begins by saying,

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in this world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

What a scathing review of the academic pursuit of a believer! Yes, it is incredibly convicting to be alone with the New Testament, but because of my academic training and some very godly teachers, I have a proper lens through which to view the Scripture I’m reading. I know so many people who have a wrong interpretation of Scripture that ends up dictating their life (God helps those who help themselves, don’t judge lest you be judged). Without a proper background and training it’s so easy to pick and choose the pieces of the Bible you want to apply.

So I’m going to enter into seminary with a different perspective than I entered my undergrad work: with my eyes wide open to see how God wants to further rule in my life as I attempt to apply Scripture to my life. May He alone get all the glory!

The Pastor as Theologian and the Theologian as Pastor

My dad has a very good article on his blog today titled ‘Pastor-Theologians/Theological Pastors‘. This is something that I have been reading about in a couple different places recently, first in Paul David Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling , (look for a review on it as soon as I finish. So far, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read on pastoral ministry) and secondly as I’ve been talking to my dad and one of the other pastors I work with on The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor written by John Piper and D.A. Carson. The Church today needs people who are willing to be those who teach in the seminaries and those who are willing to work in the daily ministry of the church, and more importantly these relationships need to be partnerships where those is academia can be aware of issues going on in the church and respond properly in the training, while those in the church can be a voice to the lay people who are doing a different kind of ministry with their lives.

This is something that has also been on my mind recently as I begin to look at seminaries and think through how I can most effectively apply it to my life. I hope and pray for the wisdom to know how to best apply the training to my life and how to most effectively help others with the training I receive. I hope that the knowledge doesn’t puff up, but that love can build up.