The Call to Seminary

5/9/12 – This is a document that I am writing so that in the coming months/years when I begin to doubt what God has called me to I will come back and remember and to glorify God in what He is orchestrating for the encouragement of others.  This is the day that I felt God confirmed a call to go to seminary…at least the most yet.  Time, of course, will tell whether or not that was from God.  But nonetheless it has been an important day.

Remember

I have been in two job interviews in the last few weeks and both of them were dismal.  No doubt, I would not have hired myself.  One with Amazon, in Cincinnati, and one was with a company up in Arlington, from a friend of a friend.  Truth be told those have been the only two options in the last three months of job searching.  What I discovered in my heart during those interviews is that my heart is not in those jobs.  There was little or no passion for them, and I can’t really fake enthusiasm in an interview.  I’m pretty low key anyways, and so even my ‘excited’ face is not much different than my depressed face.  The curse of a naturally furrowed brow.  In any case, it showed me where my heart’s desire really was, and that is in the ministry of the Word.

God had been tugging at me for the last few weeks, and especially before the Amazon interview.  In fact, my second interview was moved a week later, and I started looking into seminary on the very day I was supposed to do my interview.  So I investigated and once I found out healthcare was not an option, I pretty much dropped it because we are having a baby (yay!).  So I continued looking for jobs.  And alas, the interview I had yesterday was the same result: little passion.

So that has been stirring in my heart to return and look at options for seminary.  And that is what brings us to today.  I started my day off in the Word, a wonderful time in Psalm 121, which is all about the Lord God ‘keeping’ us, so as if to say, don’t worry I got you.  In fact, in the whole bible, that psalm is the highest density of the Hebrew words for ‘keep’.  Then I re-read John 17, right , 17:3, to know God and Jesus is eternal life, the very things I want to do.

I then remembered that I had Richard Pratt’s number (an RTS professor that taught us at Retrain) so I decided to give a shot and call him…why not?  Turns out he calls me back 10 min after I leave a message (it was his cell phone).  We talk for about an hour and it was extremely helpful.  His view on seminary is very good, less theological and more practical.  He believes that the seminarires are failing to prepare pastors for real ministry.  I think I agree.  And that’s where my passion begins to stir.  Are seminaries on their way out?  Perhaps they are.  Retrain I think is a monumental success and more in line with what we need to be doing.  So what is the heart?

I wholeheartedly believe in the study of Scripture.  We need those people who know it, backwards and forwards.  To preserve the doctrines.  We also need people to properly train our pastors.  Ministry is no joke, and in the heat of it, nobody really cares about doctrinal differnces, but rather want to feel a loving God.  Now I believe that the loving God comes through Doctrine, but we ought to be primarily concerned with loving people by sharing the truth in love.

So, all that to say, the conversation with Richard was helpful and realistic.  My heart is to love God with my mind and with my whole heart.  I believe the more we know God and see him for who he is, the more we will love him.

A way

Additionally I did some calling around and found out that there are a couple options, and in fact, I’ve found out just in time.  If I can start working at Starbucks, at least 20 hours a week, I can get us some benefits by the time the baby is born.  Consequently, I also talked to the Navy Reserve today and it takes a minimum of three months to process to the Selective Reserve.  So, all that to say, God has provided some options of getting healthcare for us by the time the baby is born.  (I am praying for a quick resolution in those).  The other great thing is that both of those will allow me to transfer to RTS.

The Call

So the call is this.  Do your best.  It’s about knowing and loving God and  God’s people and those less fortunate.  It is not about knowledge, or intellectual ability, but I want to do my best to be able to bring God’s love to the world. God doesn’t need me to do this, but I think he is gifting me to, and allowing me to.  I’ve always had a heart for study and deep thought.  Thanks you Jesus.

Resolutions

Going to seminary can be dangerous, as my Pastor said, the Danger of becoming a seminoid:  That is all in your head and out of touch with the needs and realities of ministry.  So to prevent this:

1.  Keep my walk with Jesus as #1

2.  Love my wife more than study and ministry

3.  Love my kids more that study and ministry

4.  Remain in ministry in some capacity the entire time that we are there.

5.  Do my best.

6.  Never stop enjoying God and his people.

The Temptations

The enemy is against me going to seminary.

After having achieved some clarity on the issue and having resolved some plans to make that happen, I have been  bombarded with some…distractions?

1.  Envy of one of our mh pastors being called I plant a church
2.  Doubts again to the validity of the whole worldview
3.  Now potentially the ‘perfect’ job opportunity close to where we live.

4.  Personal (untrue) conversations in my head about whether my Pastor is for me (I hate the devil!)

The enemy is on the move.

There are some great opportunities to make this happen.
1. Starbucks plan- lets apply
2. Navy reserve plan- movin forward
3. Tons of opportunity for scholarships and grants and other aid
4. People are willing to support
5. Short selling the house
6. Potential job opportunities in ministry in and around Orlando

In the end the question is am I being called by God to this.  I think I am.  I feel the passion welling up inside of me each time I talk about it.

Is it a fake promised land?  Potentially.
Is it my calling?  I think so.

Let’s pursue it an see what happens.  Let’s also pursue other options and see where God leads.

Complications

5/13/12 – A supporter told me today, that He thinks he is going to pull funding and divert to a guy who is doing missions work.  He said he’ll probably do this in August.  Now, I’m totally for this guy following his heart, no problems here, but the result for me has been confusion and I’m left with at least two options:

1.  God is saying, do you still trust me?  That I’m calling you to this.

2.  This is God answering the prayer by saying this isn’t something we should pursue.

Opposites.  Go figure.

I’m about to meet with another Pastor, downtown.  The timing couldn’t be better.  As I felt my heart sink, when my friend told me that.  I was afraid.  Does this change things?   I just want to look for the meaning in everything.  I need help discerning my heart.

Confirmations

5/13/12

The Pastor i met with says go for it!  Good conversation with him tonight!

My Community Group coach and other Community Group leaders say go for it.

All of my friends are encouraging me to pursue it.

My Pastor said he will be my pastoral reference

A pastor from Retrain said he will be my academic reference

Doubts

5/14/12

This plan will not provide for your family –  (This is the most frequent one)

This is all about you.  (The devil likes to use that one).

Further Temptations

5/14/12

1.  Financial – I’ll never make that much money if I choose this route…it’s vocational suicide

2.  Guys I know who are amazing leaders…jealously envy and doubt

I will not succumb to these.  Jesus is enough.  My value, my worth, my identity is found in Him.  Not in the bank account, not in the nice condo’s, not in any of that.  In Christ alone.  I will not be swayed by these distractions, by God’s grace.  Mercy, that’s what I need, mercy and empowerment.

 The enemy wants me to take my eyes off of Jesus.  That’s it.  And point them anywhere but there, and especially put them on myself and my inadequacies, which are many.

 What of it?  I know that I am not fit to Lead God’s people.  But I have one who was perfect in my stead, his name is Jesu Christ, son of God and where he is, there I shall be also.  I am a sinner, for sure.

 Oh Lord, have mercy on my soul.  In you I take refuge.  In you I trust.  Not in riches, not in men, but in Christ alone.  You have a plan for me, out of your grace, not because I’ve earned it. 

Further Confirmations

It’s that still small voice inside.

It’s comforting, it’s assuring.  It’s very calm, very soft, very gentle, very Godly.

As my Pastor was saying, it lacks that sting of the enemy, the jolt, the fear, the guilt.

It’s from God.  Still, steady, calm, soothing, gentle voice.  Comforting.

I will obey it!

Met with a faithful brother in Christ the morning of 5/16/12.

It was also very encouraging.  He seemed genuinely excited for me.  Thought the idea of being a professor was cool.  Couple things that stuck out…

1. Yes, you need to provide for your wife, but that looks different for every wife.

2. Look into Chaplaincy program

3. I’m free, brother!  In the end it doesn’t matter what you do!  Ask for ice cream, and if Daddy says no, that’s ok!  We’re his kids!  Very encouraging!

So all and all, felt like further confirmation.

4.  Got the job as shift supervisor at Starbucks, opening the door to a transfer to Orlando.

5/22/12-

Just read chapter 5 of “Am I called” and it was all about preaching, and nearly everything in that chapter confirmed in me a call to preach.

Oh Jesus I pray that I would preach my heart to your glory.

The Acceptance

Went and toured the Seminary on my Birthday and was accepted!  The timing of it was impeccable.  We did the tour, met the admissions guy, had a tour, met the president, had lunch with two students, and then met with one of the professors.

Then met with the admissions guy one last time and saw that my last reference had just been received.  And after we were walked out to the car, we sat their talking and I guess by the time the admission guy got back in RTS, the acceptance had gone through and he called me!

The Plane Ride home

I was praying for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people, perhaps on the way home.  I’m flying stand bye, so seats are up for grabs.  On the first leg of the flight I sat next to this dear old lady, Beverly, and Ben was on the other side.  Bev and I talked for most of the 2 hour flight, and eventually made it into faith, where I shared the gospel and who I was and what God was doing.  It was a really fun conversation.  Then for the last 20 min or so, I turned and talked with Ben, and he had overheard us talking and asked about Born-again Christians, so he asked me about it.  So I shared and even got his email to send him some stuff.

It was really cool.  One of my fears about seminary is going intellectual and academic, which I am prone to do, for sure.  I should do those things because that is how God has gifted me, but we are called not just to worship God (which for me one way is through study and contemplation of his word) but also to love the creation, especially humans, by sharing the gospel with your life and words.  Good stuff.

Final Confirmations

5/25/12 – The most amazing thing happened this morning.  I had called the VA GI bill people to just check and see if I had any benefits left, not thinking that I did.  They called me back at 7am this morning…and I found out that I actually have 7 months left on the regular GI bill, and am eligible (likely) for the post 9-11 Gi Bill which would be available for another 12 months, paying full tuition, 1000 for books, and BAH allowance!  Craziness…I’m just in Awe at how God is providing.  That has been the biggest piece for us, trying to figure out how to pay for this…and man, I’m excited!

Providence

Starbucks

It just so happenenes that Starbucks opened the doors to massive hiring a month ago

It just so happens I was in a cohort with a Starbucks shift sup, to talk to and apply for and have call for me an help know how to approach or

I jus so happened that I called a friend minutes before I was going to go to the bell town store and it just so happened that he knew the manager and called to put in the good word

It just so happened that the interview went well enough to consider me a direct hire to shift supervisor and it just so happened there was another store in need o just such a position

It just so happened that the manager liked me so much that she put in the call for me

It just so happened that the 2nd interview went well and they have a need for the best two days that work for me and it just so happened that I can start immediately.

It also just so happened that Starbucks is opening a new store, which opened this position at this store, at the exact time that I was looking…I also just found out the Belltown store is actually not hiring.

Thanks Jesus!

Reformed Theological Seminary

I just so happened to come to Mars Hill When I did, and Mars Hill DT just so happened to open when it did so I came there.

I just so happened to meet my wife at a DT CG and we got married.  Which caused me to wait on Retrain for another year.

I just so happened to take it the third year out of the Navy, and just so happened to be taught by Dr. Richard Pratt and was profoundly influenced.

RTS also just so happened to accredit retrain for 15 hours that year, because it just so happened that Dr. Justin Holcomb had come to lead Retrain the year prior, and this year we had two RTS professors.

RTS also just so happened to offer a 33% discount on Tuition a few months ago, long before I was even considering it.

RTS just so happens to be in Orlando, close to Elise’s family and best friend who just so happened to just have a baby. (and just so happened to have gotten married 3 months before us)

Richard Pratt just so happened to give us his cell phone during his class and I just so happened to still have it, and he actually called me back and we talked for an hour. (He also just so happens to be an RTS guys)

Then Elise just so happened to be visiting Orlando (to her friend) the week of the 21st, and I called and just so happened to get a meeting with the President of the Seminary and the other RTS Prof we had, Dr. Reggie Kidd, and all of this (+campus tour) just so happens to fall on my birthday!

And Dr. Justin Holcomb just so happened to sit at my table at Retrain Graduation, and said he would be my academic reference.

Lots of things seem to be pointing to it…

Thank you Jesus for putting me through the last 4 months to grow in faith, and know that this is from you!  May my mind and heart be fully immersed and in service to you!

Thank you!

The Plan

  • Get job at Starbucks – completed 5/19/12 – hired as shift sup
  • Get accepted to RTS – accepted on 5/21/12 shortly after visit (literally still in RTS parking lot)
  • Finish up Toastmasters
  • Work at Starbucks for 90 days to get benefits
  • Make as much as we can this summer
  • Kill it with Hit the Spot
  • Take Greek I and II before Winter semester
  • Sell House (short sale)
  • Get to point of being ready to go selective Reserve
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