A friend recently recommended that I read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (37signals, LLC.,2010). Here are some of the quotes which really stood out to me.
“Our culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic. We hear about people burning the midnight oil. They pull all-nighters and sleep at the office. It’s considered a badge of honor to kill yourself over a project. No amount of work is too much work. Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid. Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more…If all you do is work, you’re unlikely to have sound judgments. Your values and decision-making wind up skewed. You stop being able to decide what’s worth extra effort and what’s not. And you wind up just plain tired…Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up (p.25-26).”
“To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. That you’re putting a meaningful dent in the universe. That you’re part of something important. This doesn’t mean you need to find the cure for cancer. It’s just that your efforts need to feel valuable. You want your customers to say, ‘This makes my life better.’ You want to feel that if you stopped doing what you do, people would notice. You should feel an urgency about this too. You don’t have forever. This is your life’s work…What you do is your legacy. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to make the change you want to see (p.31).”
“For if we seek salvation, that is, life with God, righteousness must be first sought, by which being reconciled to Him, we may, through Him being propitious to us, obtain that life which consists only in His favour; for, in order to be loved by God, we must first become righteous, since He regards unrighteousness with hatred. He therefore intimates, that we cannot obtain salvation otherwise than from the gospel, since no-where else does God reveal to us His righteousness, which alone delivers us from perdition. Now this righteousness, which is the groundwork of our salvation, is revealed in the gospel: hence the gospel is said to be the power of God unto salvation.”
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Eerdmans, 1948, p.63-64
So, did you have the patience to read that paragraph with a genuine desire to understand what Calvin was communicating? Without a doubt, it is packed with great theological truths! Mind if I ask you to read it again? Do so more slowly this time.
Anything you don’t understand? Google any word which requires a definition. If you still find yourself struggling to comprehend Calvin’s sentiments, let me know. Since I love the truth of justification by faith, I wouldn’t mind putting the paragraph in more modern lingo!
Another reason that section from Calvin’s commentary on Romans stood out to me is that I am currently teaching a class on the book of Romans. I began a semester-long survey of Paul’s great letter last Sunday. Each week, I’ll be covering a chapter, hitting the hi-lights and helping my “students” grasp both the theology and application (explicit or implicit). I hope they will be as blessed as I will be on our journey!
In the morning, we’ll pause to consider our powerful (1:16, 17) and wrathful (1:18-27) God! My hope is that we will exit the classroom in the morning with a greater appreciation for God’s amazing grace!
I am a doer. I enjoy doing and seeing what I have accomplished. I’d rather cut the grass than play games or stream videos on the internet.
You probably knew I was weird before that admission!
As I write this, I am concluding a Sunday afternoon in which I did very little. Other than ensuring the kids were happy, safe and well-fed, all I did was watch the summer Olympics. For some, relaxing is easy. Their conscience doesn’t bother them if they do little-to-nothing over the span of an entire weekend. A weekend like that creates chaos inside of me (maybe guilt is a better word).
I need to do! I need to do something!
What I am coming to realize, however, is that sometimes doing nothing is actually doing something. And isn’t that why the Lord gave us the gift of the Sabbath? I think it is. He didn’t need to rest, but He chose to do so as an example for us. The concept in Scripture is clear: We are to be very productive for six consecutive days and then rest in order to fill our energy tanks for another week of faithful living.
So, I am not sinning today by refusing to create a list and striving to accomplish as many of the tasks that I can (a practice I have on Saturday’s at home and Monday through Friday at the office).
I am also not sinning by refusing to fill my Lord’s Day with Christian activities. That concept is foreign to the Scriptures. You will look in vain for either the Sabbath or Lord’s Day being a 24-hour period of religious meetings and tasks.
Years ago, I flirted with sabbatarianism. Rather than finding myself closer to the Lord, I ended up feeling more guilty than anything. My current practice, I feel, expresses the “Sabbath principle” delineated in God’s Word. Yes, I attend church (and Sunday School much of the year). The rest of my day includes watching sports, seeing a movie or spending time with my family. Some Sunday’s I go to the walk track. Other days I swim with the kids. I guess it’s an afternoon in which I do what I want instead of what I have to do.
I have a lot to do on Monday. I have to arrive early at the office and I will need to work on a college class I am teaching Tuesday evening. Monday night will also find me helping with the kids and the house. And another productive week will begin.
But not quite yet.
I penned this last weekend as a way for me to review God’s presence and activity as recorded in the Old Testament. It contains several words and phrases to jog the memory of my students as they prepared to take their final exam. You may find it helpful as well.
The eternal, triune God made the universe and all that it contains ex nihilo, out of nothing!
Then He made man and woman, bearers of the imago Dei, the image of Himself.
And then He promised the bruiser of Satan’s head, Jesus the Christ.
Again and again, He proved Himself to be Sovereign—sovereign over Creation, Fall & Flood!
He spared one family while destroying the rest and gave a multi-colored promise that He would never cry for forty days and forty nights again.
And then He called Abram out of Ur.
And as He passed through the pieces He proclaimed that Abram would have descendants as numerous as sand granules and star-filled skies.
And He opened Sarah’s womb.
He proved repeatedly to be God Almighty to the patriarchs, key individuals, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
And He created a nation from the seed of Jacob.
And He provided for His people through Joseph.
And then He protected a baby floating within the reeds.
And I AM appeared to Moses.
He demonstrated that He alone was God, destroying the so-called gods of Egypt as He both hardened and softened the heart of Pharaoh.
And He graciously spared the first born sons in Goshen.
And then He divided the Red Sea.
And He hurled horse and rider into the waves.
And He led His people to the thundering mountain.
And then He met with Moses like He had never met with a man before.
And He gave His people a code to help them love Him and hate sin as they prepared to enter the promised land.
And He punished those who loved the world more than God and themselves more than their neighbors.
And He purified the remnant and prepared the Army.
And although Moses’ reflected glory began to fade, the glory and holiness of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob continued to brightly burn.
And then He parted the Jordan and was with Joshua even as He was with Moses.
And He proclaimed Himself Commander of the Army of the Lord.
And He battled with and for His people.
And He raised up judges to deliver an adulterous nation.
After silence, sin and supplication God sent salvation time after time after time.
While the people continued to do what was right in their own eyes, Jehovah remained faithful to the faithful remnant.
And He provided the nation with a king—a king they deserved, having reserved a man after His own heart in the quiet fields outside Bethlehem.
And He was with David through David’s highs and through David’s lows.
And then He promised the unthinkable—that David would have a son on the throne…for eternity.
And as the nation split and as wicked kings to the north and to the south turned their back on the One True King, the Lord sent prophet after prophet to warn His people, calling them to repent and return in order that times of refreshing might follow.
But the people continued to walk in the footsteps of Gomer.
And the patience of God had reached its conclusion.
And God became angry; very angry.
And He sent the Assyrians. 722 B.C.
And He sent the Babylonians. 586 B.C.
The rods of God.
And, in dramatic fashion, the glory of God departed the temple.
Eventually the people would trickle back into the land.
The milk did not flow as it once had.
The honey wasn’t as sweet.
The rebuilding process was difficult.
But Messiah had been promised.
The forerunner had been mentioned by the final prophet.
And then God went silent.
For 400 years.
No recorded words.
No recorded appearances.
No recorded miracles.
Until an angel appeared to Zachariah in the temple.
“Good news of great joy” was about to be announced!
But that is NT History.
When I don’t communicate, something is up. Maybe that is better worded: “Something is down.” I’m probably down. I’m either down physically or I am buried with work. Praise God, my health has been OK. But I have indeed been buried with work! For the past month, I have taught three nights a week, and two of those courses were brand spankin’ new ones for me! Twelve hours of teaching plus at least ten hours of grading and prep while working no less than forty hours at my full-time job has fully occupied my attention!
This three-day weekend could not have arrived at a better time!
I am very much looking forward to three lazy mornings and some well-deserved rest.
Though physically worn out, I find myself rather spiritually encouraged. Surely the content of my courses has something to do with that. I’ve been teaching Doctrine and Practical Implications (Tuesday evenings) and Old Testament History (Monday and Thursday evenings). Without a doubt, I have spent considerable time in God’s Word. That is always helpful to the soul. A second reason for my encouragement has been the response of my students, particularly my Thursday night Old Testament class. I have a group of eight ladies and all appear to have a genuine hunger for God and/or knowledge of His Word. Last night, I included the following question on their quiz: Why are you interested in the content of tonight’s class? My power point slide reminded them of our agenda for the evening: Quiz, Review, Presentations, The Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon), Review for the Final. Several students mentioned that they loved God’s Word and that they looked forward to learning more about the upcoming books. Others commented that they were excited to see how they can apply what they learn in their lives. You can image how that served as a much-needed shot in the arm for me after a long day!
After the quiz, the students shared their presentations on the Latter Prophets (the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament). One group was assigned “The Presence, Prophecies and Pictures of Christ in the Latter Prophets” and the other had the task of presenting “Godly Living in an Ungodly World from the Latter Prophets.” Both groups did very well. What I especially found meaningful was their admission that they were quite emotional as they prepared. God had captivated their hearts as they studied! Two women, in particular, said they were wrecked emotionally in the process! One discussed the sufferings of Christ as presented by the book of Isaiah. The other spent considerable time in Hosea and spoke about God’s intense love for Israel (then) and the Church (now).
At one point, a different student mentioned something I stated in the first class. I stressed that I wanted our time in God’s Word to be far more than an intellectual exercise. College classes across our nation study the Old and New Testaments, but do so from a detached, objective perspective, as if the Bible was merely sacred literature from the Ancient Near East like the Epic of Gilgamesh. Belhaven University and Tim Wehse take an entirely different approach! Doctrine has “Practical Implication”! The Old Testament is meant to lead us to a life of worship. Or, as we saw last night, we are to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). The Psalms we considered reminded us of the character of our God and motivated us to “Praise the Lord!”
So tonight I find myself exhausted, but grateful. I am thankful for God’s assistance over the past month and I am thankful that I have been able to lead some pretty awesome students in a study of God’s Word and the truth contained therein. Once again, I have been challenged by the contents of the Bible and I have been blessed by the response of many of the students willing to walk with me in the journey!
And those were fast ten years as a college professor and one long month!
“Cambridge, Jun 17 1775. I desire to bless God for his Kind aperince [sic] in delivering me and sparing my life in the late battle fought on Bunker’s Hill. I desire to devote this spared life to his Glory and honour. In witness my hand, Francis Merrifield.”*
That was a man on a mission!
His words reminded me several of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions. Here’s the 4th:
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.**
Whether it is the testimony of a Francis Merrifield or the commitment of a Jonathan Edwards’ I love to be reminded of the most important tasked assigned to me today: To consciously glorify God.
The Apostle Paul made this very clear when he penned, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Although everything falls under the category of “whatever you do,” the following verse is instructive. It pertains to living to the benefit of others within the community of faith.
2 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
Glorifying God is very much practical. Honouring the Lord takes devotion. It is a decision forged in the heart and cemented in the mind. And it is particularly visible in our relationships.
How are we treating others? Are we acting and reacting in such a manner that they feel blessed rather than cursed? Would they describe us as people who build them up instead of tearing them down? Does our presence in their lives promote their spiritual lives or does it discourage them from growing in His grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). These are questions we would do well to ask ourselves. Like Merrifield at Bunker Hill, our lives have been spared. They were spared for a purpose.
Let’s be living out that purpose!
May God assist us to do no less!
I reached a milestone last night.
With the conclusion of my class on New Testament History, I marked my 10th year of teaching the Bible on the collegiate level. I first taught for Bryan College on several local campuses, and for the past five years I have had the privilege of teaching for Belhaven University in downtown Chattanooga.
And please know: I never graduated from high school.
Yes, I am telling the truth. I never graduated from high school. By the middle of my senior year, I had 11 of the 21 credits required for graduation. I simply did not care about my education. Additionally, no one was holding me accountable. My parents were too busy with “making ends meet” and my siblings were too busy with their own lives. For much of my childhood, I was on my own. High School ended up becoming the place I would learn where the parties were going to be and what girls were going to be attending. And so–when graduation day arrived in May of 1984–I was not to be found on campus. In fact, I had planned to sleep all day that Saturday. Instead, I received a phone call from my brother asking me if I wanted a full-time job at a local factory. With no other opportunities on the horizon, I jumped at the chance. I thought I’d be employed at Screen Process Specialists in Plymouth, WI for years. That was not to be the case.
If there is a pot at the end of the rainbow, it was in Texas (so I thought). I heard through my mother that my sister and her husband in Arlington, TX were making great money and they invited me to move there if I was interested. “Why not?” Life was about making as much money as possible (so I thought). In early November, I packed up all of my belongings and moved. Funny thing, though, the pot at the end of the rainbow was a myth. The reason they were making so much money was because they were not claiming their tips. And the jobs I found paid very little. After being fired from one factory job in Grand Prairie, I joined the Army. That was early December of 1984. My path to learning and degrees began two years later when I was stationed in northern Japan.
During those highly impressionable years, I very much looked up to the men who taught me the Scriptures. After spending time with several, I learned what steps I would have to take in order to follow in their footsteps. I would need to graduate from seminary. To do that, I would have to graduate from college. And–in order to reach that distant goal–I would need to pass the G.E.D. One baby step would eventually lead to a master’s degree–IF I continued the process.
The baby step. With the assistance of one of my fellow soldiers, I was able to pass the G.E.D. (God provided a Mormon man named Ken to tutor me in basic math skills). Shortly after that initial success, I registered for my first college class: Fundamentals of English (University of Maryland). I clearly remember my sweet, Christian instructor and how challenging I found the course! That sweat, however, did not discourage me from my path. My plan remained to leave the Army and attend college full-time. As December of 1987 approached, God clearly revealed to me that He wanted me to attend Bryan College in Dayton, TN. I began in August of 1988.
I’ll never forget the morning I drove into Dayton and up “Bryan Hill.” It was a foggy, Saturday morning and my life would never be the same. I would meet my amazing wife on that hill, grow greatly in my Christian life and learn more than I could have ever imagined. Bryan was exactly what I needed! I graduated in 1992 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies and minors in Greek and History. One semester I even made the Dean’s List! Prior to my graduation, I had been accepted to Reformed Theological Seminary. Jodi and I moved to Orlando, FL following her graduation from Bryan in 1993.
When we arrived in Orlando, Jodi went right to work as an English teacher at a private school. I began attending classes at the seminary in August. My time at Reformed Seminary was very helpful for me as I began the arduous process of learning how to think, not merely the continuation of collecting facts about God, the Bible, church history, philosophy, etc. I did learn a lot about these important subjects, but the maturation I experienced during those years was far more important than the content I acquired. Overall, our time in Florida proved to be difficult and rich. We experienced quite a few trials, but made some wonderful friends. I graduated with my master’s degree in Theological Studies in 1996.
That which commenced with a baby step in 1986 concluded with a graduate degree ten years later!
Last night I shared my story with my students. I wanted them to know that they can accomplish much with God’s assistance and their perseverance! I didn’t tell you that I failed my first attempt at my G.E.D. The math section was my downfall. However, I simply refused to allow that initial failure to stop me in my tracks. I dug in, got help and passed on my 2nd attempt. College wasn’t easy for me, either. As expected, graduate school was even more difficult. But quitting never really was an option. Unless halted by the Lord, I was determined to hold a master’s degree in my hand. To His glory, I did just that!
After serving in pastoral ministry in Las Vegas for several years, I found myself back in Dayton, TN. That’s when God nudged Bryan College to consider me for their degree-completion program. I began teaching for them over ten years ago. When their program began to slow, God had Belhaven reach out to me. Now I only teach for Belhaven and I love to do so. They are keeping me busy teaching courses I love. Next week I’ll be as busy as ever, beginning two Old Testament History courses and one entitled Doctrine and Practical Implications.
It’s still hard for me to comprehend the graciousness of God regarding all of this. I deeply desired to be able to study and teach God’s Word. I had hoped to be able to do so as a career. For a while, I did just that. Now I am able to do so on a part-time basis without a lot of the baggage that accompanies pastoral ministry. I love my day job and love my night work as well. Like those men in Northern Japan (Ray Hauser and a group of Protestant chaplains), I have been blessed to be able to spend considerable time studying God’s Word and great books and then communicate my insights to my students.
For ten years.
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3; New American Standard Bible
It surprises neither of us that our marriage has lasted for twenty-five years. We both knew we were serious when we stated “until death parts us or our Lord shall come.” How thankful I am that our marriage has required so little work. God proved Himself exceedingly gracious when He united us for His great glory and our great good. Below is a trip down memory lane. It is a sampling of twenty-five events significant to our history. Woven together, they provide a picture of two-and-a-half decades of friendship and love
- May 25, 1991: The BIG Day
- Summer 1993: Move to Florida
- Fall 1993: First Sunday at Sweetwater
- May 1996: RTS graduation and leaving Florida
- Summer 1996: Touristy move to Las Vegas
- July 1996: First Sunday at EFCLV
- Summer 1998: Sunny 106.5
- Spring 1999: Sun State retirement
- Fall 1999: Jodi and Maria grazing
- October 30, 1999: Celena’s birth
- May 25, 2001: Ten Years
- Summer 2001: Balboa Island
- December 8, 2002: TJ’s birth
- July 27, 2005: Dayton’s birth
- Winter 2006: Sale of Flora Drive
- Spring 2006: Return to TN
- March 2007: Bryan and RCA week
- July 24, 2008: Cascade’s birth
- May 25, 2011: Twenty Years
- September 2013: First Gulf Shores vacation
- March 31, 2014: Cadence’s birth
- March 18, 2015: Tim’s 50th and the Dixie Stampede
- September 2015: 2nd Gulf Shores vacation
- March 18, 2016: Mini-golf in Knoxville
- May 24, 2016: You, Me, Coffee, Cadence (and every everyday memory I cherish)
Twenty-five years. Twenty-five memories. So much has transpired since our stairwell meeting in the summer of 1989! Fun and trials. Laughter and tears. The daily grind.
Thank you for faithfully walking by my side through it all. Thank you for continuing to be my friend, helper and lover. I am very much looking forward to our time together Wednesday and Thursday.
“The Bible was meant to be read. An unread Bible is like refused food, an unopened love letter, a road map not studied, or a gold mine not worked. If you have put off reading your Bible, begin today to make reading and studying it a vital part of your life with God.”
That great quote concludes the Introduction in Irving Jensen’s extremely helpful book Simply Understanding the Bible (World Wide Publications, 1990, p.8). I have included it on a slide I will be showing during the first Old Testament History course I will be teaching this summer. Currently, I am teaching New Testament History for Belhaven University. In our last class, we studied the book of Acts. This coming Tuesday we will be considering the Pauline Epistles, with special attention given to 1 Thessalonians.
I am really looking forward to our time together in God’s Word. At the end our first class together, one of my students stated that she really enjoyed the evening. One of the reasons she listed was my excitement about the subject matter. Her assessment was correct. I come alive teaching the Word of God. I’ve taught a variety of courses both on the secondary and collegiate level, but no content captivates me like the assertions and stories found within the pages of the Scriptures. Whether I have the opportunity to review the history of the early church or the life, ministry and writings of the Apostle Paul, I find myself energized.
My hope, of course, is that my students will be moved by my passion. I pray regularly for them to either come to a saving knowledge of God through Christ or to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Each week I ask God to use me and my material, but I particularly plead with Him to use His Word in their lives. My prayer is that He might work in them as only He can. And I very much want that to be true for me as well. My times of study and teaching cannot simply be an academic exercise or a part-time job. Too much is at stake. Rather, I desire for the Lord to continue the good work He began in me so many years earlier. So, my reading and studying must be a vital part of my life with God.
Can I ask you about your time in God’s Word as of late? Don’t refuse such nourishing food! Open the love letter! Study the map! Mine for gold! Get excited! An incredible journey awaits as you meet God in the pages of His amazing Word!
Dear friends of ours are going through a very difficult trial. Several years ago, they spent considerable cash, effort and time to adopt a young man from a European country. However, now the teenager has a huge chip on his shoulder, wanting to get out of their house as soon as possible. He has been both disrespectful and distant. Without a doubt, he is unregenerate. He does not love the Lord and, remarkably, he does not appear to love his adopted parents. I couldn’t help but see in their heartache an analogy for what we often do to God.
By our attitude and by our actions, we basically tell our Father where He can stick our adoption. Rather than choosing to live out the reality that we are no longer children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), we choose to live like members of the Devil’s family.
As the Apostle John might say if he were present, “Beloved, this should not be!”
And I can tell you one of the guiltiest transgressors. His actions and reactions often cause his familial ties to be questioned. His words frequently cause those around him to doubt his confession. His thoughts are many times far more devilish than heavenly.
He, of course, is me.
1 John 3:1-3 was penned just for me (and all God’s people):
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
Here is how Eugene Peterson renders this verse in The Message:
“But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.”
Not every human being is a child of God. I often make that point while teaching my college courses. But those who truly are His children are expected to live at a certain standard. We (all believers) are to consider “the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model.” Thus, we actively purify ourselves as He is pure.
One commentator wrote,”‘Purifieth’ is a present tense which denotes a continuous process. We are to be pure ‘even as He [Christ] is pure’ eternally. We are not to judge our lives by other peoples’, but by Christ’s, who is the standard or toward which we are to move” (Herschel Hobbs, The Epistles of John, Thomas Nelson, 1983, p.81).
So we must as ourselves daily: In which direction am I moving?