Monday, December 31, 2018

The Year in Review (2018)

I have not posted nearly as much on this blog as in previous years. I post nearly daily on Facebook, which I have come to see as a tool of teaching and discipleship. Social media is also a marketing tool. My "marketing" has primarily been for the School of Theology and Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Here is my year in review.

The biggest personal change this year was my son Thomas going to college. He has a full tuition ROTC scholarship to Purdue (yes, he was present in Nashville at that horrible game Friday). Pray for the Lord to show him the best path for his future! This coming year will probably see all of our children out of the home. Pray for them if you think of it!

Preaching and Teaching
I preached at least nine times this year, including IWU chapel, the Holiness Emphasis Week at Southern Wesleyan University and a chapel at Asbury Orlando.

I also piloted an 8 week Bible study series on Romans with Sam Maddox and Light and Life Wesleyan Church in Three Rivers, Michigan. We will probably do another study this spring, perhaps on 1 Corinthians. If you have a small group at your church that is interested, this is a live Bible study probably on a Thursday night for an hour, using Zoom. I see possibilities here!

1. One of the most interesting ventures this year was my shift from blogging to Patreon. Someone made an off comment on Facebook around April 7 about Patreon, about which I was unacquainted. On April 8, I started posting videos--and then podcasts (at the suggestion of Marc Jolicoeur) on Acts.

It took 35 weeks but I went through the entire book of Acts in Greek both in video and podcast. It turned out to be 220 videos, which you can watch in order at this playlist. It amounts to a course in Acts, minus the homework. Every week I did a special video for my patrons, almost all of which are now public.

I have several patrons who give $5 a month to support my work here. On December 10 I started working through Isaiah 40-66. Here is the playlist site. This week I hope to finish up Isaiah 41.

Books Read
I either read or skimmed several books this year:
Books I've Written
  • I wrote two more novellas in my Gabriel's Diaries series. 
  • A book on Hebrews moves forward. We'll see what comes of it.
  • I floated a proposal something like Sophie's World, spent some time writing a sample chapter. The lack of an enthusiastic response has it on hold.
  • This fall I invested a good deal in a Greek for Ministry idea I've had for years. I have about 150 pages written. I hope to send a proposal to a publisher in January.
Math and Science
I have always loved math and science. Several years ago I started making videos going through physics, calculus, and chemistry. Inevitably, I don't have time during the year to work much on these, but I have done quite a bit in the summer. I still hope to better understand relativity and quantum mechanics before I die. Did some study in the summer.

Dean Matters
  • This is my third year as Dean of the mostly undergraduate School of Theology and Ministry (STM). Each year surprises with a different challenge, but each year also brings successes and opportunities. 
  • STM is a spectacular team. Charlie Alcock is a one man recruitment army with the work he does bringing thousands of young people to campus and running ministry teams in the summer. Amanda Drury is a grant-writing monster who has brought many students to campus who would not otherwise have come, including many diverse students. David Smith has been teaching Bible study in churches all over the US. Eddy Shigley continues to foster connections with the KERN Foundation. Brian Bernius has configured and reconfigured our curriculum into a lean and mean teaching machine. I could go on and on about STM's faculty and divisional leadership.
  • The challenge of middle management is always partial power. You can facilitate some decisions, but the most impactful ones are out of your hands. You find yourself daydreaming a lot about what you would do. Suffice it to say, I have a large number of ideas (I've started keeping a notebook). We'll see if the Lord opens the door to use any of them!
So farewell, 2018. Onward to 2019!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Top Ten Reasons to go to a Christian College

In these days of multiplying options, I repeatedly come back to the question, "Why would someone choose a Christian college today?" We can break down this question even further:
  • In a perfect world, why would or should someone choose a Christian college? and
  • How do our Christian universities line up?
Top 10 Reasons
10. Because it's a solid education
This factor must be a given. A Christian shouldn't suffer educationally because they go to a Christian college. The education they get must be on a par or better than what they would get at a secular institution.

9. Because it's accessible
If going into the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus is at the heart of Christian identity, then Christian colleges will not only be "havens for saints" but also will reach out to the ends of the earth with education from a Christian perspective and with Christian values. It makes sense that Christian institutions would have online and satellite programs in the same way that a healthy church reaches out beyond its walls.

8. Because it's affordable
There should be a partnership between the church and Christian universities that evens out (ideally, that even betters) the financial proposition of going to a Christian university. The most efficient way for the church to make a Christian college education affordable is to give directly to the students with scholarships. The church and university should partner in this endeavor.

7. Because it's a safe, quality environment
By safe I not only mean physically but in terms of things like the tendency of many universities toward rampant drug and alcohol use. By all means a Christian university should be fun and full of all the creative playfulness of the late teens and early twenties. But it should not be the party wasteland that is so many colleges and universities today. In fact, non-Christians should find Christian colleges attractive because of the quality environment.

6. Because of friendships
Many of us formed key life friendships in college. This is one strength of a residential college experience over a commuter college or a university where one gets lost among the masses. In this day and age it may be thought a luxury, but it should be a strength of the Christian residential college that you have close, life friends with deep Christian values. You become who you are around. Those who do not go for whatever reason should recognize that they are missing out on a special community.

5. Because of mentors
If a Christian college is working right, a student should form relationships with professors and other mentors that remain for life. Professors should not be "ivory tower" personalities who don't have time for their students. They should be regularly available for conversation on every level. Informal counseling, life coaching--what happens outside of class will probably be of more lasting value than what happens in class. Decades later, these relationships should continue. As I have told students, you're paying to have me as a resource for life.

4. Because of life trajectory
Where you go to college will likely set your life on a trajectory. Suffice it to say, you should be more likely to leave college headed in a Christ-centered direction if your starting point is a Christian college than if your starting point is not. This makes going to a Christian college extremely significant.

3. To be formed spiritually
A Christian college is not a church but it is a para-church community. Think of it in terms of a small group within a church. You do worship together. You have koinonia. There should be organized discipleship taking place in the dorms and among athletic teams. It should even happen in classes. Spiritual formation is the most important dimension of our lives, and it should be a major dimension of a Christian college.

2. To be formed intellectually as a Christian
Perhaps the focal task of an educational institution in general is intellectual formation. Spiritual formation is more important eternally, but it is not the reason a Christian college exists. There will no doubt be a significant degree of overlap between the learning of a secular and Christian institution, but at a Christian college faith should be integrated with the learning. This integration takes place on several levels: 1) with the faith of the professors and environment, 2) in the way knowledge is applied to life, and 3) in the very presuppositions from which subject matters are approached. A major reason to go to a Christian college is so that one can see one's area of study from a Christian worldview.

1. To be formed in Christian identity
Several of the above points make it clear that the 18-22 years are some of the most formative years of one's life. Where you end up spiritually in your life is more crucial than where you started out. For this reason, the life direction aspect of a Christian college should be of inestimable value. This direction goes beyond what career you choose or who you marry. It has to do with who you are. Because the ideal Christian college is far more likely to form you to be a Christ-follower for life in this most crucial transition period of your identity, this is an incredibly strong reason to go to a Christian college.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

For Patrons: Beginning Hebrew III

My third patron post on the alphabet is up, covering the letters he, chet, mem, nun, and tsade. In particular, I cover the letters whose final form is different from their initial or "medial" forms.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

For Patrons: Beginning Hebrew II

Another patron post today on the Hebrew alphabet on patreon, a great way to learn Hebrew gradually. Today covered aleph, ayin, bet, gimil, dalet, kaph, pe, and tav.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

For Patrons: Beginning Hebrew 1

One feature of my new series on Isaiah 40-66 is that on Saturdays I am going to be plugging away at a new book draft: Hebrew for Ministers and Scholars. What that means is that my patrons will be able to learn biblical Hebrew at a gingerly pace. After all, I'm only working on the book once a week for a Saturday post.

This will be a really easy way to learn Hebrew, especially if you also watch the two videos on the Hebrew of Isaiah during the week. Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

For Patrons: The Background of Isaiah 40-66

This week I started my second Patreon series on Isaiah 40-66 (see here for my previous series on Acts). Just this week I have:
  • Looked at the Hebrew letters of Isaiah 40:1.
  • Done podcast commentary on Isaiah 40:1-8 in their original OT context
  • Made the patron video/podcast at the bottom of this post.
  • Tomorrow I will go public with a look at the Hebrew grammar of Isaiah 40:1
  • On Friday I look at Isaiah 40:1-8 again from a New Testament perspective
  • Saturday for patrons I will begin to post information toward a Hebrew for ministers book.
For patrons today I made this 22 minute video on two possible settings for the writing of Isaiah 40-66: 1) a vision/prophecy of Isaiah in the eighth century BC and 2) prophetic material from the sixth century BC integrated with prophecies of Isaiah.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

For Patrons: The Church at Rome (end of series)

After 35 weeks and 220 videos and almost as many podcasts, I have finished going through the book of Acts in English and Greek. The end result is the equivalent of a college course in Acts, minus the reading, writing, and tests. Here is the playlist where you can watch almost all the videos in order.

The final podcast is my reconstruction of the first 50 or so years of the church at Rome. Full of educated guesses and debated possibilities. Roams through Romans, Mark, 1 Peter, and Hebrews. On Monday, I start Isaiah 40-66 and Hebrew!

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Adventures in Isaiah and Hebrew

1. For 35 weeks (including this week) I have slowly made my way through the book of Acts. On weekdays I have done a daily podcast commentary on a passage, trying to cover about a chapter a week. Also on weekdays, I did YouTube videos on the Greek of that passage, accumulating more than 200 videos. Together, these podcasts and commentaries amount to a college course in Acts, without the tests and papers. :-)

2. Beginning December 10, we are switching to Isaiah 40-66 and Hebrew. The schedule above was quite intense, so I'm planning on a slightly less demanding schedule. Here is the plan:
  • Weekly - The goal is about 15 verses a week.
  • Monday - On YouTube, I plan to go through the Hebrew letters of a key verse in the passage for the week. So you can start learning Hebrew.
  • Tuesday - Patreon podcast on 7-8 verses
  • Wednesday - sometimes, something more for patrons
  • Thursday - On YouTube, go through another key verse in Hebrew, this time looking at the Hebrew grammar of the verse. Again, you can learn Hebrew.
  • Friday - Patreon podcast on 7-8 verses
  • Saturday - for patrons, work on "Hebrew for Ministers and Scholars" book
3. Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month on Patreon. I have been making patron videos available on YouTube after about a three weeks delay. I will probably continue to do that with any Saturday videos. The book writing however is toward a book so wouldn't be available until the book came out.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

For Patrons: Paul's Shipwreck and Ancient Sailing

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. It's a brief 11 minutes, but I did a little research on ancient sailing in relation to Paul's shipwreck.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.