Author Archive: daytontn

Right now, it’s the right thing for me to do

I just finished the hardest season of my teaching career.  As soon as I hit the 10th anniversary of my teaching on the collegiate level, Belhaven University decided to fill my schedule with classes. I’ve taught around 26 of the past 27 weeks.  One particular 4-week stretch saw me in the classroom three times each week.  Most recently, I taught two classes for the past five weeks, one of which was in Dalton, GA  (about an hour and twenty minutes from home).  You can imagine how nice it is to finally have a breather.  I will not be in the classroom for another two weeks, and only then to substitute in New Testament history.  And then we head to the beach.  Without a doubt, I am very much looking forward to some time to unwind.  I plan to take long walks on the beach, hang out with the family, study God’s Word and watch sports.

As I think back over the past ten years, I feel fatigue over how much effort I’ve had to put forth in order to provide for my family.  Entering into my forties, I knew that the next twenty years or so would  require maximum effort.  I realized that I had reached the genuinely productive period of my life.  The fact that I found myself busy did not surprise me.  What I was not expecting was how exhausted I would feel ten years into the twenty year marathon.  I suppose I am finally feeling my age. But now halfway through this period and with a house full of kids, I find myself extremely grateful for a full-time job and the part-time job, both of which I enjoy.  While I wish I didn’t have to work as many hours as I often do in a week, I am thankful for the opportunities as well as for the health God allows me to experience.  Even though I am tired from a rather physically challenging year, I remain committed to doing what I can to meet the needs of our family and to provide some of our wants–like our upcoming respite at the beach.

This week the city of Charlotte, NC erupted.  Yet another black man was shot by police (this time it was a black officer who fired).  Within hours, chaos ensued.  We’ve seen these disturbing events unfold in several cities across our nation over the past few years.  There is some legitimacy to the anger within the African-American community.*  However, I am also aware that there are far too many unemployed young black men in our cities.  These individuals are usually the agents through which the violent retaliation takes place (killing or injuring police, destroying personal and public property, theft, etc.).**  What every young black man needs is the same as what every man needs–a job.  Men are created by God to work (on a boat or in a field or at an office).  Woven into the fabric of a man’s psyche is the knowledge that he is meant to be productive.  Too much time on a man’s hands is a dangerous thing indeed.

Well, I cannot fix the ailments of the inner city any more than I can do so for my next door neighbor.  In fact, I can’t even fix my own issues!  But what I can do, I will do.  I will work.  Unless circumstances or God prevents me, I’ll be back in the office in the morning serving our clients.  When I am offered another class, I’ll agree to teach.  Right now, it’s the right thing for me to do and knowing that makes all the difference in the world.

NOTES
*Did you see the video of the shooting of the black man in Tulsa?  I just shook my head, marveling at how that incident could happen and why–IF a shot had to be fired–a leg or rear end wasn’t the target in order to take the suspect down.  I am being very vulnerable when I admit that I am glad that I am not a black man in our nation because I would not want to live under the cloud that I am presumed guilty rather than innocent regardless of the accusation (and, please know, I am very pro-law enforcement).

**I am aware that inner city protests and riots and the “Black Lives Matter” movement isn’t wholly comprised of African-American men.  Several races and members of both genders can be found present, but the particularly destructive and/or violent events are caused predominantly by black men, most of whom are young and without full-time jobs.

Special Graces in Common Places – Aptly spoken words

danbook

“This book is about learning to pay attention to what God is doing with you, to be learning to hear He is teaching you, and to see how He is challenging you, encouraging you, and equipping you though the normal, common, and even mundane experiences of life.”

My friend and fellow RTS alumnus, Dan Ledwith wrote those words in his introduction to his new book, Special Graces in Common Places, available for purchase today.  His easy-to-read anecdotal devotional is a collection of vignettes that are both honest and interesting and sometimes even heart-breaking.  First, he wants to convince his readers that “God knows no distinction between the sacred and the secular parts” of life (p.2).  Second, he desires to “illustrate how everyday life is full of discipleship moments'” (p.3).  He succeeds in doing both. More than that, however, each meditation is edifying, offering spiritually encouraging insights.  One can choose to read this book in an afternoon or select one chapter a day for time of selah (pause and consider moment).

One of Dan’s themes in Special Graces in Common Places is the sufficiency of God in His saving and sustaining grace. Dan wrote,

Perhaps the most precious thing I have been learning these past twenty-four years is that Jesus is enough. He is always enough. And in Him, I never have to worry about being enough, because in Him I will always have enough. When I look back and reflect on my life, time and time again when I realized I was not enough, He showed He was enough. I didn’t always see it right away, but He was always there. Always. And He always will be (Chapter 2: Lessons from 24).

Later, he added:

What I have been learning is that God’s plan for us includes bringing us into places where we quickly realize that we don’t have what it takes; places where we realize that we don’t have the wisdom, the strength, the resources, the confidence, the man power, the ability, or the finances. He loves taking me to places like that anyway, and I don’t think it’s because I’m “just that special.” He does this because God wants us to see how trustworthy and faithful He is. He is not interested in making me feel like I am enough or that I have what it takes. He wants me to come to the opposite conclusion, that He is enough. God is not interested in making us feel capable. He is interested in helping us see that He is capable (Chapter 42: Thoughts on a Recurring Theme).

Indeed!  God truly is “capable.”  Dan’s book enables us to see this truth quite clearly. Thus, it is a good read!

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please use this link:

https://www.createspace.com/6469457

 

 

Celebrating the homegoing of a Christ-centered giant

wayne-fb-cover-photo-hp2016-1

In God’s providence while in Asheville, NC at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Reverend Dr. Wayne Allen Barber, 73, of Chattanooga, TN was promoted to Glory for eternal life on Monday, August 29, 2016. For him, joy! For us, deep sorrow and grief yet, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Instead, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!

Those are the opening lines of an announcement aptly titled “Not I, but Christ.”  It can be read it its entirety on the Woodland Park Baptist Church website: http://woodlandpark.org/

Many comments about Wayne and his ministry also appear.  If anything is made clear from the heartfelt comments, it is that Wayne appeared to practice what he preached.  Consider a sampling of the tributes:

What a joy he was to be around! He had a significant spiritual impact on my life and taught me how to study the Bible in depth. His life was a testimony of what the walk of faith should look like. I will never forget his many humorous stories and a statement he used to say all the time: “Just let Jesus be Jesus in you!” – Scott

I really appreciated Bro. Wayne’s desire to zero in on the main principle of a passage and not be distracted by issues which might obscure the Truth of the Word in the proper context. – Russell

I cried when I read this because he, more than any other pastor spoke and encouraged me to walk daily with the Lord. He always would say, don’t trust what a pastor says, check it out for yourself in the Bible. Read and study God’s word. – Kenneth

I have never known anyone else who so boldly and joyfully lived out “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Maegan

There was no question that God called him to teach and shepherd and “equip the saints”! I was discipled by him as I sat in the pew from my freshman year of high school through my freshman year of college. My love for God’s Word and digging deeper into God’s Word began with Wayne’s teaching! – Mandy

What Pastor Wayne invested in me is eternal. I have never felt such grace from any other person. – Heidi

How is that for a eulogy?!  What a difference this man made in the lives of others for the glory of God!

Jodi and I came to appreciate Wayne and his ministry while we were students at Bryan College in the early 1990’s.  Wayne came to the college for a series of lectures on the book of Philippians and his passion for Christ was contagious.  Jodi and I also visited Woodland Park Baptist Church on several occasions to hear Wayne preach or to attend one of their pageants.  In recent years, we have attended the Christmas Eve Service at the church.  Those were Christ-focused, joyful celebrations!

As I reflect upon my brief encounters with Wayne Barber no concept comes to mind as much as Christ-centeredness.  Every time I heard him speak, he would zero in on the person and works of the Lord Jesus.  From all accounts, his life proved that he very much believed the words that he spoke.

Moments like these cause me to reflect upon my own legacy.  How will I be remembered?  What difference am I making in the lives of others today? Do people hear me mention the person and works of Christ and do they see the tremendous difference Jesus has made in my own life?

I’m not sure.

How I want my eulogy to be written may be different than what actually transpires.  I hope that is not the case.

But we all know that how we live today adds to the body of work which will be recalled later.  So, and I have said this before, today matters.  Today is significant.  The decisions I make today and the words I utilize today are important.  The same is true of you.  Another truth to consider is that that same Jesus that captivated the attention of Wayne Barber still exists!  In fact, Wayne now has more information about Christ than he could have ever imagined!  He lived for Christ in this life and now he will spend eternity with Him!  Let us follow in the footsteps of this giant (Wayne was a tall man)!

Labor Day 2016: Following the example of a mighty man

In 1840, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a wonderful poem entitled “The Village Blacksmith.”  Read it slowly.  Consider the faithfulness of the “smith, a mighty man” who had “earned a night’s repose” (rest after another day of attempting to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons).  If your life resembles his at all, you are grateful for a three-day weekend.  You, too, have earned some R&R.  Allow yourself some this weekend.

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands. 

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Toiling,–rejoicing,–sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

http://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=38

For some application of the poet’s words, see:

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/09/13/lessons-learned-from-longfellows-blacksmith/

 

Reading Reflections: Rework

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).”

Good stuff.

 

Now This Righteousness

“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!

Learning the Discipline of Doing Nothing

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.

 

 

HIS Story in Old Testament History

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.

Just silence.

Until an angel appeared to Zachariah in the temple.
“Good news of great joy” was about to be announced!

But that is NT History.

Coming up for air

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).

Good stuff!

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!

 

Devoted to His Glory and Honour

“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.

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!

*http://www.foxnews.com/science/2016/06/02/soldiers-faith-rare-bible-carried-at-battle-bunker-hill-has-moving-inscriptions.html?intcmp=hpbt4

**http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-resolutions-of-jonathan-edwards