Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Theology of Sponge-Bob

A "Go with God" Moment

Friends, last week we were talking about what it means to simply "listen and obey." But in all practicality, there is nothing simple about this. If so, we would never have an inner struggle of faith plus there would be no disobedience in the Christian world. 

So, what is so hard about listening? Maybe I can paint a spiritual metaphor that will define the overall problem. And I will do it in the form of a theological question. "What would make Sponge-Bob Square-pants a poor follower of Christ?" Go ahead, say it out loud. Right, "He has no ears." How can he listen if he has no ears? In essence, he is a spiritual blockhead. But that is nothing like us, right?

Read with me Psalm 40:6-8 …and let's create a "Theology of the Ear."

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have pierced;
Then I said, "Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart." 

Several years ago a male student burst into my office with Psalm 40 in his hand. He shouted, "I have all the biblical evidence I need. See, even God approves my ears being pierced." Now, he was trying to find scripture to justify to his parents that they should approve his desire to get his ears pierced. He read the text as if this act would be his offering to the Lord. I tried to convince him that he had unknowingly taken the passage out of context. For the NIV does a strange job of translating the Hebrew word kara. He was assuming this passage was referring to the act of faithfulness that a servant/slave does for his master by making a lifetime commitment by having his ear pierced. (See Ex 21:6; Deut 15:17). His only problem; it's the wrong Hebrew word.

The word "pierced" in Psalm 40 is a rarely used in the OT and it refers quite specifically to a cistern being dug out (Gen 26:26Num 21:18). The noun form of the word actually means "well" or "cistern." What the passage is describing is straightforward; we are human SpongeBobs. We have hands and feet (and are often found to be equally poor dressers). But worst of all, we have no real ears to hear the voice of God. Offering and sacrifices do not help in any way. God's words still falls on deaf ears. Furthermore, it will take a divine act of grace to fashion ears on the side of our heads that will hear anything above the earthly noise that fills our daily life. Our ears are only capable of hearing the within the auditory range of what I would call "daily distraction." 

The Gospels report the same hearing disorder to Jesus disciples. After they have witnessed countless miracles and sat under His teaching for years, Jesus sadly says to them, "Do you still not see or understand. Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see? Do you have ears but fail to hear? (Mark 8:17-18)

We are no different. Maybe we are even affected with a worse disease; for they all lived pre-Cross and pre-Resurrection. Our deafness is rejecting the full revelation of God. Plus, what honor or praise are we giving to a speaking God if there are no human ears to hear?

So, may I now ask you a serious question? This very day, will you allow the Lord, the Divine Physician Himself to do a serious act of spiritual surgery on you? Will you let Him fashion a whole new set of ears for you? Will you permit Him to dig out and excavate your old deaf ears and replace them with ones that are capable of hearing even the gentlest whisper of the Spirit? Does your heart long to hear the voice of the Father, with clarity?

We desire to want what You want.
We pray for hearts to be shaped after Yours.
But Jesus, that may only begin when we can hear Your Word.
So begin with me this very day.
Use a divine instrument (Heb 4:12-13) and provide us with the ability to hear You.
We pledge to quiet all competing voices and distractions.
We promise to incline our lives in Your direction.
Now, Lord, heal our ears, dig deep into the recesses of our souls.
We long to hear…and obey.

Now, Go with God

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Simply "Listen" and Say "Yes" in Advance

A "Go with God" moment

Last week, we discussed the issue of finding and obeying God's will. In my mind, the term, "God's will" sounds just a bit distant and disconnected. As if "His will" is something God keeps hidden from us and we have to wrestle Him for it, much like Jacob at Bethel. Can I change that paradigm for you, because I do not think anything could be farther from the truth. What if we made the statement just a bit more relational…I want us to learn to hear God's voice.

A great place to start would be the key parable in each of the Synoptic Gospels. Take just a minute and read Mark 4:1-9

Jesus began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,

Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing,
some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.
Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
And He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Often when I hear sermons preached or Bible Studies done on this passages, the discussion circles about the call of this passage to be "good soil." But there is nothing explicit about this in the parable. There is only one imperative Greek verb in the whole passage. Sorry to sound like a Greek geek but in actuality there is only one command in the entire parable, its found in the word, LISTEN. The hallmark of being a Christ follower is simply listening to His voice. Let's not make this more complicated than it is; just listen. As a matter of fact, the parable begins and ends with the same call; use your ears and listen. But that takes us to the next step, the implication to obey.

Now once we have the "listening thing" clear in our minds…let's read one of the best know passages, Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

As you probably know, this is a power packed passage, worth pondering and carefully exegeting. But let's  focus our attention to the clear cause-and-effect description given by the Apostle Paul. He is saying this, First, present your bodies as a living sacrifice (somewhat of an oxymoron)…then you be able to prove what the will of God is.

Think about this question, "Why you want to know the will of God?" Be honest with yourself. Most people ask to know the Lord's will so that they can ponder if they like what He is asking of them…or even worse, if they even want to obey. Let me make this as clear as I can, our task is not to consider the option of obeying or even mull over what part we like or will consider doing. Our act of faith is just to say, "Yes Lord Yes." So, if you really want to know the Lord's will, just say YES…and then ask Him what we have agree to. Simply, sign on the dotted line and then follow Him as the faith contract begins to be written in your daily walk.

Finding the Will/voice of God is just saying YES, in advance of knowing what it is. That is true faith…and it will make your life so much easier to live. Temptations to disobey will cease to become a part of your walk, because you have already agreed to His will.   


Give us ears to hear and hearts that are undivided towards Your will

Jesus, give us a holy walk which resembles Yours.


Now, Go with God (and keep listening…and say "Yes" when we hear) 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

After the Music Stops, That's When I Live My Song

My new, and deeply growing Bethany friends.

Several years ago, as I was stepping out of the classroom and into more of an administrative roll, Dr. Keith Drury suggested that if I was concerned with losing my level of influence with students, I should begin writing to them a weekly "open-letter." Thus, I started writing about my musings of life and my exegetical insights in the Word. It was affectionately titled, Go with God, since those are the last three words I pronounce over you as you would walk out of my classroom.  

So, once again, I find myself without a classroom. Thus, I have no convenient place to share my insights. So I was wondering if I could think of you as my sounding board? (Wikipedia defines sounding board this way: A structure placed above or behind a pulpit or other speaking platform that helps to project the sound of the speaker.) Perfect. Will you help me refine and project my engagement with the Lord?

So, here I … Go with God.

Years ago (yes, 1992); Christian music artist Darly Coley wrote a song entitled, "When the Music Stops." The opening line goes like this,

       When the music stops, that's when I live my song…

That thought kept coming to mind all this last week since we are in our first week, post-Spiritual Advancement. The music has stopped, the services are over and the Lord is asking us to daily walk in the freedom we received and to live out the commitments we made. This seems to so easy to do while basking in the glory of the moment but Oh so hard in the mundane routine of Monday through Friday.  Might I add, this was no easier for the disciples as they walked with Jesus than it is for you and me.

Let's start with reading Mark 9:2-13 It's OK, I'll wait for you.

 In this story we find the discipleship inner-circle of Peter, James, and John on Mt. Transfiguration, and Jesus is displayed to them in all of His radiance. Peter, in his typical "speak-first-think-second" style says, "Rabbi, It is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

My first observation is that Jesus, in His wonderfully graceful way, does not respond to Jesus' impulsive statement but rather the Gospel writer Mark interjects his inspired insights with a subtle parenthetical comment

     (Peter did not know what to say, they were so frightened).

Simply, Peter did not know how to react or even worse, how to integrate this mountaintop experience into his normal everyday life. And his immediate response was, let's just do away with the day-to-day monotony and instead, stay here and worship 24/7. Let's just make everyday a Sabbath day.

Notice how second comes a divine revelation clothed in a theophony (define this as a God-moment). A cloud descended and a voice appeared. If you were a good first-century Jew, this would remind you of the Giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, (see Exodus 20). The voice of the Father comes and speaks directly to the three disciples, "This is my Son whom I love, Listen to Him!"

So what does this have to do with determining the Lord's will for everyday life! (This is the application part). First and foremost, just listen to Jesus. Please do not think that the "art of listening" is isolated to your ears. In every language "the act of listening" implies obedience, making this just as much a matter of the heart. So please, never say, "I heard from God, yet I decided to act differently." That, my friends, is called open rebellion.  

Second, (and I love this part) listening does not demand that you fully comprehend all the implications of what Jesus means. For example, as the disciples are coming down the mountain, Jesus told the disciples "not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead?" (9:9). And they discussed "what this rising from the dead" meant. What a relief that is! I do not need to fully comprehend every single theological and practical nuance of Jesus' teaching to find and follow His will. I merely need to listen. Life has just become so simple 

So you might ask, what do we as a Bethany Community do following Spiritual Advancement week? How do we find and follow God's will after we come down from the mountain?  Well, we start with our ears (and heart). But of course there is more and I'd like to take the next several weeks and discuss in detail, finding God's will…and of course, implementing this into the fabric of our community.

Next week, after we hear, to know God's will, we simply say YES.


Again and again in Your Word, you call "those with ears to hear"

So please tune our ears to hearken to Your voice.

Help fashion our ability to listen as You speak

Shout, speak, or whisper; we are here.

Your Word originally was a creative act,

So, in our lives, please make this a re-creative work of grace.


Now, Go with God (and keep listening) 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not a "Walk" in the Park


I needed to share a few closing words after chapel this morning. First, you have all made Angie and me feel so welcome. There is nothing lacking in the way you have reached out and blessed us. Most of you know, when you move, it just takes time to “find your place.” You need to learn the routines and rhythms of where you are, and there is no way to speed up the process. Angie and I are amazingly resilient and patient but we are simply in the Lord’s waiting room. Thanks so much for the love you have expressed just upon us!

Second, when I preach, I usually have about two hours of material that needs to be edited down to a reasonable length sermon. There are just a few things that I would like to express to you that have become recently real to me. When I was talking about the “Way” that Jesus wants you to follow, you know that Jesus is talking specifically about the way of the Cross, the way to Jerusalem, the way of humility. Now, this may seem a but disconcerting and almost frightening. But discovering the “Way” is not like jumping into icy cold water. Rarely is it a jump right in and take a class here at Bethany in Martyrdom 101.  Jesus has this wonderful plan that is usually reveled to His followers in baby steps.  He simply asks you to stretch just a bit and lean into the direction His voice. And before you know it, you find yourself standing right next to Him and He has taken you from where you are tonight right into a “table set before me in the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23). And to your utter surprise, faithfulness in the little things places you in leadership over many.

Someone was asking me this afternoon about finding His will. “Precisely how do I find the Lord’s way?” was the question. For me the easiest answer is found in Romans 12:1-2, where Paul writes,

“I urge you, brothers [and if Paul was writing today, he would most certainly include “and sisters”] in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Did you read carefully the cause-and-effect relationship in the passage? When we make a decision in advance to offer ourselves to God then we will know what His will is! Our real problem is that our decision-making process usually functions in the reverse. We tell God to reveal His will then we decide if we will obey. In honesty, if we are pondering whether or not to obey God, we are already in serious trouble. Liking or disliking God's will is not the question. Faith is always the correct response. Just say, "YES" in advance of knowing where we are going. To walk in the Kingdom “way”, we must order our lives (and decisions) according to His Kingdom values. And being a Christ-follower means that we will do so even before we know His will...maybe the reality is that saying "YES" is actually the forerunner of discovering His will!

So, if you want to know His way, just follow Him…go wherever He goes…make every turn and every course adjustment. And make that promise in advance of even knowing where you are going. There is no better way to life than a “road-trip” with the Lord. And I promise you something in advance...He will transform your heart to love the journey you are on. Angie and I are on an adventure of a lifetime. Yes, some days I am uncomfortable and often somewhat unnerved...but I would not trade this trip with Jesus for all the silver and gold in the world. Just thought I would share that with you this evening, cause you all are on the same train with us!

Now, Go with God!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Blessed Start

My new Bethany friends and fellow travelers on the path of faith (especially all you students),
As the time of preparation recedes and the reality of the new academic year comes to the forefront…would you let me expound just a bit on the profound power of a “blessing?”
Then he (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53)

What you just read are the closing words in Luke’s Gospel. Some might call them at best transitional verses; as you move from teaching and action Jesus in the Book of Luke (Volume 1) to the on-going teaching of Peter and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (Volume 2). However, I find it quite interesting that the final act of Jesus on earth was to lift up his hands and to bless his followers. I wonder what the actual blessing consisted of. Was it done principally in words, like a pastoral benedictory prayer at the end of a worship service…or do you think Jesus’ final blessing was more physical in nature, taking on the form of a first century “Holy Kiss.” This might translate into our culture as a warm and endearing hug. You know the kind I mean. Not a mere handshake but an encounter that stays with you for a while. I have to imagine that the final “
blessing” which Jesus gave to His disciples was perfectly chosen for each one of them; unique to meet each personal need. Moreover, I trust that this blessing lingered in the air as a sweet-smelling fragrance, propelling them forward to worship Him and then to offer in the Temple their own blessing.
In actuality, let me try to demonstrate how this action of Jesus serves as God’s wondrous climax to the book of Luke as a whole. Think with me how the Gospel of Luke opens. You find yourself temporally located not in the days of Jesus but Luke describes the times as; “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah” (Luke 1:5). Zechariah is entering the Temple to offer an incense offering; with all of Israel just outside; praying as they are waiting to hear that God has accepted Zechariah’s sacrifice on their behalf (Luke 1:10). But (and I should put “BUT” in all caps), as the angel Gabriel comes and delivers to Zechariah a message of hope (his wife’s shame will be removed by the birth of their son John the Baptist); Zechariah shows no faith to the words from God’s messenger (Luke 1:18). So, the result of Zechariah’s faithlessness is that he is struck speechless. A pastor unable to speak!
Let me relate the consequences of Zechariah’s faithlessness and how it impacts Israel. The role of the priest as he exits the Temple is to hold his hands up and pass on the Lord’s blessing to the people. The traditional words would be the priestly benediction which comes from Numbers 6:23-26;
This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Can you now see how Jesus’ blessing at the end of Luke’s Gospel is nothing short of a divine answer to a human problem? What Zechariah could not do for Israel because of his lack of faith (bless them); Jesus performs after his demonstration of perfect faith in trusting God with his life on the cross. What the priests of Israel could not do, Jesus fully blesses His followers.
How does this relate to us here and now on the eve of a new semester? Well, one example is cemented in my mind. God’s Son has fully prepared you for this next step in your journey.
·     Some of you are first semester freshmen, concerned if you have the “right stuff” to make it at BBC. Please, sense the call of God on your life and know that the very blessing of our Savior is being bestowed upon you, even as you read this note...or maybe tomorrow in class…or in Chapel on Thursday as President Gorveatte speaks and we share together in Holy Communion.
·     Some of you are returning students and you know all too well the routine of the days and weeks of the semester. But will you take a serious personal inventory and ask the Lord of the Harvest to make you fully aware of the needs of others right around you. May you please extend a hand of blessing into the hearts and lives of the BBC community who are less comfortable in our surroundings?
·     Finally now, you seniors. You are entering into your final months among us. We will soon entrust you in a six-month internship in which you will be expected to pass on the blessing of God to others. Please do not attempt to do this on your own. Allow the blessing to originate with Christ and merely allow Him to use you as a broken vessel filled with His love. Maybe this semester, this first week, this very moment; you will sense His hands upon you and the blessing of God to infuse you in a whole new way. Remember, preparation for ministry is not only academic knowledge and practical training but it consists of the Hand of God reaching down to us in
Now, remember, the end of Luke is really the end of the beginning; for the entire Book of Acts follows. In the same way, please sense Jesus’ blessing on your life this very first day of the Fall 2010 semester.
Today, as we go about our regular daily tasks;
May we sense Your divine blessing.
May it be found in our classes, and in our hallway and in our dorm room conversations;
May during our meals, may we break bread and may our eyes be opened to who you are.
May Your blessing be heard in our service to others or in the reception of grace from a friend.
In all we do, may we sense your blessing.
Most of all Lord, if there is an absence of Your blessing;
May You call us back to Yourself, to the place where Your voice and touch is most clear.

today, and forevermoreGo With God.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Bethany Introduction

My soon-to-be Bethany friends; (This includes faculty, staff and especially students); 


I only have one opportunity to make a first impression. So, how will I do this? Jesus’ first words were often, “Do not fear, it is I!” That would be just a bit over the top for my taste, and a little intimidating. Paul almost always began his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly theologically correct, but somewhat awkward when you are greeting a complete stranger, don’t you think? Plus, in my estimation, one’s first words should reflect the character and core values of the person. So here goes…


Hi. My name is Dave. And I am a sinner saved by grace. Now, that may sound more like an opening introduction at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting than a new Academic dean greeting the students he is called to serve. I apologize. I do not mean it that way. I mean it as a testimony to the radical love of the Father who sent Jesus to meet me right where I was. For indeed, I did have a serious drinking and drug problem, well into my 20’s. That was until a young woman (who I was seriously pursuing) told me about a man named Jesus. Can you imagine living in North America and not knowing who Jesus was? In the midst of my relentless pursuit of her, she told me she would go out with me “If I went to church with her.” Well, I did, and the rest is history. That young woman is Angie, and this August 22nd we will celebrate 29 years of marriage. Can you imagine what it is like for me to wake up each morning and look at her, knowing that she was the one who changed the course of my life. I am a sinner saved by grace, redeemed by His love, filled to overflowing and enamored with serving wherever He wishes.


This leads to the real question, “How does a dean from Indiana Wesleyan University find himself soon to arrive at Bethany Bible College?” Well, some mornings I ask myself the same thing. The answer is very simple. It is housed in the theological term, “call.” It was the compelling voice of God who spoke to Angie and to me; jointly and at separate times in prayer, assuring us that Bethany Bible College was the place where His Presence would be to meet us and sustain our ministry. I see our move to Bethany as the next step in our life-long spiritual adventure with the Lord. We are simply affixing our “Yes” to God’s call.


However, you might be interested in “when” we precisely made the decision to come to Bethany. The journey began as follows. President Mark Gorveatte first contacted us via an email on May 11th. We corresponded and talked several times in the ensuing weeks. But our youngest daughter was getting married on July 3rd, and we did not think we had the emotional capital to seek out a faithful Bethany decision and a wedding at the same time. But Angie and I remembered what we said to the Lord five years earlier, “Jesus, when our children have graduated college and on their own, we will go anywhere.” So we asked, “Lord are you in this?” Now, fast-forward thru a visit to Sussex, the last two weeks of wedding plans, and the wedding itself. We were emotionally bankrupt. The Sunday after the wedding we were sitting in a small upstairs room in our home with our son and daughter-in-law. We were filling them in on all the “Bethany happenings.” I turned to my son Joshua and asked for his advice, “Is this a go or no-go decision?” He was caught in the emotion of the moment and began to cry. He lives only 30 miles away and loves to come home on weekends. He said clearly, “I do not want you to go! But Dad, you and Mom said ‘Yes’ to God 29 years ago, are you really going to start saying ‘no’ now?” Out of the mouth of my son came the decision. We just want to walk with the Presence of God. Divine fingerprints were all over this move. Now you know our story…but when you arrive on campus this fall, I look forward to meeting you and hearing how God graciously brought you to Bethany. May this fall be one of testimony about the Lord’s faithful call upon us all!


So, we will arrive in Sussex in late August. We have several prayer requests which I would ask you to carry with us. First, we would sincerely like to see our home sold before we leave. But, it is His house, so we will leave that to Him.Second, our son Joshua is looking for a full-time teaching job in and around Indianapolis. There have been hundreds and hundreds of teacher layoffs in the area, so this will also take a divine act. Third, please pray for the myriad of good-byes to scores of friends and family. We have lived in the Midwest almost all of our lives, so the next few weeks will be filled with tears, long hugs, and emotion-laden meals. Finally, Angie is the best mother I have ever met (apologies go to all the other mothers in the world; I’m simply hooked on her). She will be leaving our two children; Joshua in Indiana and Hannah in Wisconsin. When we arrive in Sussex, we will be in need of surrogate children. Thus, we look forward to jointly serving one another. Simply put, in the Body of Christ, We need each other. Angie and I cannot wait to meet you.  


For an early intro, check me out on Facebook:!/profile.php?id=161503697     

And Angie as well:!/profile.php?id=651385782&ref=ts   

Or to get a taste of my interaction with students, try


In Jesus' joy,


Rev. David F. Smith, Ph.D

Academic Dean – VP Academic Affairs

Bethany Bible College -


Monday, August 2, 2010

An Inadequate Good-bye but an Eternal Thank You

My heart-felt friends and former students;


I am sitting in my office on a rainy Saturday morning drafting this letter to you. Everyone knows that in the process of writing, you have the opportunity to create a first draft and then re-work the material through careful crafting, until you get the content and the form just right. But when we speak face-to-face, we only get one stab at it. Since you know that I am a man of story and personal interaction, I’m going to write this letter in one “take” and imagine each of you is sitting in front of me. We are drinking coffee (of course), and I will write as if I am speaking to you directly,

The last 10 years have been the most rewarding of my entire life. From the first day on this campus, I have sensed that all my life experience (business and ministerial) has been preparation for what transpires here at IWU. To say this is a labor of love would be a complete understatement. Moreover, our time here also has been a wonderful dovetailing of Angie’s gift-mix with mine. As I work you to death with exegesis after exegesis, she tenderly brings you into our home and nurtures you back among the living. She has also mentored scores of young women, assisting them to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian woman after IWU?”


BUT, (and you knew a “but” was coming); the Lord has clearly opened up a new opportunity for us.  Five years ago, Angie and I told the Lord, once our children have completed their education and are gone from our direct care, we will go anywhere. Well, His timing is impeccable. On July 3rd we married our youngest daughter (Hannah) to her new husband Brian and on July 6th we accepted a call to move to Sussex New Brunswick (Canada). I will hold the position of Vice President of Academic Affairs at Bethany Bible College (a sister Wesleyan institution of IWU). Please know that this was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life. We are leaving so many people that we love (which includes each one of you!). But as Angie and I walked through the decision making process, we discovered God’s fingerprints everywhere and His voice was beaconing us forward.


May I tell you one incident among many where His Spirit was whispering to us. I was planning on teaching the Book of Romans this fall at IWU. And Angie wanted to audit the class. So in preparation, we had both been doing our devotions from Paul’s great letter. Every day since the beginning of March, we had been reading and re-reading Romans. In mid-May we were contacted by the president of Bethany, Rev. Mark Gorveatte, about the possibility of coming to serve at Bethany. We prayed and prayed, and though it seemed like a good fit, Heaven remained silent to us. Without the blessing of God and the certainty of His Will; I was not going to move forward with the process. One morning in early June (after devos in Romans) I went upstairs to write to President Gorveatte detailing our struggle with this decision. I wanted him to know the honor of simply being considered but without a confirming word from the Lord, we had to say, “No.” I finished the letter with these words;

“In the end, I am looking for God’s blessing and for His peace. I do not see this as testing the Lord but trusting in the assurance of His abiding Presence that goes with His people as they faithfully explore uncharted territory with Him (Ex 33:15-18). And I desperately want to see His Glory.”  


I read the letter aloud to Angie before sending it. When I came to this last line, about our desire to mimic Moses in the pursuit of God’s Presence, Angie began to cry. When I asked her why, she simply said, “Today, for the first time in months, I read outside of the Book of Romans. This morning, I felt lead to read Exodus 33 and sensed we need to settle for nothing less than the Glory of God in our lives.” We took this as a whisper of the Holy Spirit in our ears to let Him take us by the hand on this journey. After a brief time of crying together in divine awe and wonder, I added this final line to the letter to President Gorveatte:

“So, we will lean forward (or at least towards the North East) on our part here, pursuing God’s fresh call to Bethany. However, if it be His will that I receive a refreshing of my call here at IWU, that would be perfect. Either way, I sense that God is clearly up to something in my life and I do not want to miss His will, ever!”   


Well, our pilgrimage with Jesus is still being written. We visited Bethany and sensed God confirmation. We will be moving at the end of August. I sincerely apologize that I will not be able to give you an adequate goodbye. It’s been through our investment in you that Angie and I have also been transformed. We are not the same people as when we arrived at IWU 10 years ago. We have been shaped and molded by our relationship with you. We should not be surprised…neither should you…listen to how 1 John prepares us for this:

If we (plural) walk in the light, as he is in the light, we (plural) have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us (plural) from all sin. (1John 1:7 NIV).

Simply, God’s work of transformation is done in the company of fellow travelers. And the friends He has placed me in fellowship with over the last decade will never be forgotten.


Thus, I extend to you an eternal thank you for all that you have done for me. Certainly, I owe my life to Jesus. But I also give you thanks as friends. And I use that endearing term “friend” in the same way that Jesus does in John 15 when He says,

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”


Please Lord

May You empower these students, my friends, to pursue You with a selfless abandonment

May they find wholeness and satisfaction in You

May they discover an abiding love in service to Your Church

May they never settle for cheap grace but rather may they daily count the cost of Your love for them

May thankfulness and gratitude well up in their hearts and echo forth from their lips 

Most of all Lord,

May they never fear Your Will…but rather may they seek sanctuary in the surety of Your Word and may they always long for the solace which comes from a familiarity of Your Voice.

May the two-fold prayer of my friends always be:

·         “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 2)

·         “May it be to me according to Your word.” (Luke 1)



Now friends, for one last time I say to you, “Go with God.”


In Jesus joy,


Dave & Angie


Monday, April 19, 2010

Pentecost - Conceived and Received

A “Go With God” moment.

For 105 of our seniors, this will be the final Monday Memo and the last time I will write to you (at least as a student). It’s difficult for me to express to you in words how proud of you I am. Just think of all that you have accomplished in the last 4 years, you have tackled the impossible; reading all the assigned books (well, most of them anyway), written countless papers, and attended class after class (upwards of 1800 by my count). But in the end, that is simply what you have done. I am proud of who you have become. You know, Being vs. Doing. The joy of being a professor comes as we watch the transformation which takes place inside of you between your freshmen and your senior year. Child psychologists tell us that the greatest spurt of human development takes place between birth and 18 months. But we know the greatest spiritual development takes place from the time you begin making your own decisions for Jesus (can you say, “freshmen year at IWU”). We as your professors have the delight to watch you do this for four consecutive years. Yes, you made many poor decisions. But each time picked yourself up and moved forward, leaning into the voice of Jesus, following ever more intently. May I simply say, “Thank you for letting us, your faculty watch the Lord work in your life.”

Much of your post-IWU life will be learning how to lean into the future God has for you, rather than timidly approaching God’s plans. That is why in the past several weeks, I have been talking about looking ahead to Pentecost, (May 23rd), preparing yourself for the arrival of the Spirit just like you may be gearing up for the summer or graduation. We have talked about several biblical passages that discuss the gift of Pentecost, but can I give you one huge observation that the early church put forward to speak about Pentecost as being the high-point of a Christian’s life. Read the Apostles Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth, and


in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.


I believe in the Holy Spirit;
the one holy unified church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

I am certain that you quickly notice that the creed is broken into three stanzas, one to each member of the Holy Trinity. But did you also note that the statements about the Father and the Son simply describe what they have done. It is not until we get to the third stanza pertaining to the Holy Spirit that we are told in rapid fire succession what is appropriated for us through the salvation of God; the gift of the Church, the fellowship of the body, the forgiveness of our sins, our own resurrection and eternal life. Chris Bounds said it to me this way, “What is conceived at Easter was not received until Pentecost.”

So, as you prepare for Pentecost this year, think of it as a means of leaning into your life of faith, “receiving the Holy Spirit” as Jesus offered in John 20. May He infuse you with Himself.

Lord Jesus;
May we receive all You have for us, without hesitation.

May we ingest Your goodness and may it saturate our very being.

May we conquer our temptations in our own desert places just as powerfully as You did.

May we be empowered to love You and one another fully.

May Pentecost be a present day reality.


Now, Go with God.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Passion for Pentecost

A “Go With God” moment.

As we look ahead to Pentecost, (remember May 23rd) I would like for you to think about preparing yourself for the arrival of the Spirit just like you may have geared up for Lent. You may ask, “Why?” Simply think about how valuable the coming of the Holy Spirit is to the Gospel writers themselves. In John’s Gospel, Jesus specifically says that it is “good that I go away” because then, and only then will another comforter will come (John 16:7). Luke lays down a similar climatic premise when the Resurrected Jesus says to His disciples “
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) And the promise of the Father is not an eternal home in heaven, or the second coming of Jesus, but the filling of the Holy Spirit made manifest at Pentecost.

Now, would you allow me to bring this home with just a simple biblical insight that I never saw until this semester in IBS. It comes from Romans 12:1. You have probably read it more times than you can remember. But this time the truth climbed off the page and gripped my heart. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” The NIV misses the mark with this translation, for the word “sacrifice” is singular in the Greek, NOT plural. Do you see it? The simple observation of a plural noun (your bodies) being focused into a singular metaphor (living sacrifice). To me, this changes everything. Paul is not depicting a person in the act of consecration alone at an altar of prayer. Rather, you are seen as one person among many, who consecrate their lives to the good of the whole; together creating one beautiful and sweet smelling aroma to the Lord. This act, in our modern America, where the individual’s rights and privileges reign supreme, may be the most powerful display of the Work of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost calls us to individually put aside any and all ambitions which might lean in the direction of self-centeredness and rather take upon us the image of “other-centeredness” (check out Phil 2:3-4).

Lord Jesus;
What will cause us to lose ourselves and be refashioned into a “living sacrifice”?

What will it take to look and think like You Lord?

What will empower us to be seen as loving You and one another fully?

What will refashion Your image; the Imago Dei in us?

Lord, it seems as if I am asking the wrong question Lord. It’s not what but who.
Lord, we long for nothing short of You; Your precious cleansing Holy Spirit.

Come sweet Pentecost, from there we will walk in a new manner; not to be served, but to serve; and gives ourselves away to others.


Go with God.


Monday, April 5, 2010

After Easter, What is Next?

A “Go With God” moment.

Welcome back from our Easter “Holy-day.” Did you take any time over the time away and reflect that Easter is the end of Lent? We have spent the last six weeks preparing ourselves, through acts of personal denial, to be ready for Easter…and now it’s over. So now we as Christians can now put the spiritual stuff to rest until the end of the semester? Right? I mean nothing comes after Easter of any significance until Advent and Christmas. Nothing tops the Resurrection, right? Well, may I correct your Church calendar theology. Easter is in actuality a pre-cursor of another event in the life of the church that is yet to be encountered; Pentecost. Originally, Pentecost was one of the three main pilgrimage feasts in the life of ancient Israel. It comes 50 days after Passover, in conjunction with the celebration of the harvest. In the early church it also commemorates the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the praying 120. According to Luke’s theology, it is the climax of the promise made by the Father (Luke 24:45-49). Wow, the Resurrection is not the spiritual trump card? And it is what the early church was instructed to wait for in Acts 1:4-8.

May I put it to you simply? Jesus’ death and resurrection is more than a means of forgiving your sins. If that is the way you view Easter, your thinking is far too reductionistic, self-centered, and reeks of a modern western individualism. Rather, the New Testament as a whole understands Easter as a portent for making possible the shaping of the Body of Christ into His Image here on earth. This is continually portrayed in the New Testament in a corporate/community sense, not individually. Maybe we can think of Pentecost this way, “Through the Power of the Holy Spirit, WE are being fashioned into ONE.” Those are not really my original thoughts, but they are a paraphrase of Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17. Remember that John chapters 14-16, at least in part, are about the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus actually tells the disciples that “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

Now, listen to the Son pray:
“My prayer is not for them [disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21).

Think of it this way, Easter and the Ascension lay the groundwork for Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church; empowering us to live a “Christ-like life.” And that Christ-like life is best described in “one-ness.” And the best model is the Trinity. The concept of Pentecost should be that we resemble the relationship of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit. And if you say, “That’s impossible,” I dare say, you have just limited the work of God in your life. Make that our life. For your faith indeed impacts my life, for good or for...well you get the picture.

BTW, Pentecost Sunday is May 23rd.

Lord Jesus;
We desperately need the power of Your Spirit in our lives.
But Jesus, power as You define it, not my concept
Make it Your Will and Your way.
I want nothing short of Your work.
Make me an instrument for the world to see You.
You may begin today.

Now, Go with God.


Monday, March 29, 2010

How do you properly say "Goodbye"?

A “Go with God” Moment”

How do you properly say “Goodbye”?

That will be the overarching question for IWU seniors over the next several weeks. After four years; how do you express the words and sentiments to friends for all they have meant to you? So, how will you say goodbye to the people who witnessed you grow from adolescence to adulthood? What will you do with folks who assisted you to put away childish things and now act like men and women of faith?  What will you say? What will you do?


In actuality, though April is filled with new found hope because of spring and Easter, it can be one of the saddest months of the year. And the people who grieve the most are your professors. That’s right; because we say goodbye to another class every year. We watched you come to IWU as somewhat wet-behind-the-ear freshmen. We taught, we trained, we offered ourselves, we coached, we prayed, we picked you up, we cried, we ranted, we smiled, and in the end, we washed your feet, and then we offered you the bread and wine. All the while we joyously watched the Spirit of Christ (re)shape the Imago Dei in your life.


So our question to you is this; how can we as your professors…

·         Say, ‘Thank you’ for allowing us to be witnesses of God’s grace in your life?

·         Express our (sanctified) pride in who you have become as a child of the King?

·         Demonstrate the faith we have in your future service for the Coming Kingdom?


So, we ask you to please set aside the last Friday of the Semester; April 23rd. During the 10am Chapel hour, we will meet together in the sanctuary of College Wesleyan Church for one final chapel service; a true Service of Consecration. During that time, we will honor the Senior class of the School of Theology and Ministry. But we want all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to participate as well. It should be a time of joyful celebration and solemn dedication for all that God has done in and through us all over the last four years.


What a great way to say; Good-bye


BTW, you may be aware of the etymology of Good-bye. It comes from “Godbwye”, a contraction of the old English “God be with ye.”

Simply, it is our prayer for each of you.



Who: All Students of the School of Theology and Ministry

When: April 23rd at 10am

Where: College Wesleyan Church Sanctuary

What: Consecration Service


Now, Go with God


Monday, March 15, 2010

I am an Optimist

I am an optimist. I always expect the best from both people and in everyday life situations. It’s the pre-supposition I have as I walk through my daily tasks and interact with everyone around me. Do I sometimes appear foolish? Maybe so. Do I sometimes get blindsided in public, sure. But I much prefer to see the glass half-full and ever increasing that the opposite.


I am also an eternal optimist…and I am intentionally making a spiritual play-on-words. Optimism is also how I perceive the spiritual world around me. Yes, I understand the deep and abiding affects of the Fall of mankind and I have seen human depravity at its worst. In my pre-Christian days, I even participated in it. But I know first-hand the prevenient grace of God; a gracious movement of God that goes before us and which can enlighten the heart of even the darkest soul.

·         By being an eternal optimist, I actually believe that when the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

·         Being an eternal optimist, I take Jesus at His word when he says, “I have overcome the World.”

·         Being an eternal optimist, I trust that Jesus’ act on the Cross and in the event of the Resurrection has actually reversed the curse of the Adam and Eve in the garden, and the fullness of this reversal can be experienced in the Here and Now not just the sweet bye and bye.

·         Being an eternal optimist, I will not settle for the fact that the atonement only affects the penalty of sin but actually is a complete answer to the problem of sin in the life of the believer; and we can actually can live above a life of mere sin-maintenance.


Is this just too good to be true? Well, that is what this week in chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University will focus on. Each day we will hear speakers who are optimists, just like me. They believe it is possible for the power of the Spirit of Christ to defeat the power of sin in each of you. Temptations can be resisted and the Glory of God can reign in you; yes even you.


All this week our chapels are called the Cox Deeper Life Series. They are presented through the generosity of Dr. Leo Cox, a former professor of Bible and Theology at Indiana Wesleyan University. His enduring passion was the message and experience of holiness. Dr. Cox believed that God, through Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, could break the power of sin in believers, enabling them to walk in whole hearted obedience to Christ, setting them free to love God with all their lives and to love their neighbor as themselves.  He believed this work to be the privilege of every believer and not just the spiritually elite or those training for ministry. To this end, after his retirement, he established a lecture series at all four Wesleyan schools of higher education, in order that students would be able to hear the good news of holiness and have opportunities to experience this work of grace in their own lives.


We usually bring in an outside speaker to present this truth to you. But once every four years, your own professors here desire to speak to you on this matter. Thus, each day this week, one of the professors from the School of Theology and Ministry will preach. Plus, we find it essential that every member of the Religion faculty actually profess this magnificent doctrine. So, someone from our faculty will also testify about the beauty of Holiness in their own lives.



Dr. Leo Cox was a former professor of Bible and Theology  at Indiana Wesleyan University, were he served for many years as chair of the Religion and Philosophy Division. While at Indiana Wesleyan, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Wesleyan Theological Society and became a charter member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Through his teaching, scholarship and leadership he became a well respected leader in Evangelical circles in the United States and across the world. As an ordained Wesleyan minister, he was committed to the Church of Jesus Christ and training people for leadership ministries in local churches.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Romans: Just a Simple Story

Today is a cold Saturday. So, I am staying inside and thinking ahead to next September. Why so far ahead? Because this fall, I will be teaching Romans. I’ve read this book countless times. I’ve preached on it. I’ve lead Bible Studies on it. But I have never taught it here at IWU. So I thought Romans and I should be intimately acquainted. I decided to read Romans in one sitting; and I failed miserably. I never got past Paul’s greeting.



[a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ]

to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 1:1-7 NAS)


Yes, I know this is simply the Greeting, and I should not get overly excited until I get to the real heart of the matter (at least 1:16 and following). But this opening helps me grasp Romans in a way I never have before. Here is what I saw for the first time and it was always right in front of me. Take note of the extended description Paul gives about himself which I bracketed off above. It begins with “a bond-servant” in verse 1 and goes all the way thru “among whom you also are called of Jesus Christ” in 1:6. All that Paul has said is one long descriptor not really about Jesus…but it describes who Paul himself is! (Technically, if you are interested, all the phrases of this one long Greek sentence are set in apposition to the name “Paul.”) Paul = all that follows in 1:1-6.


So, you might ask, what is the big deal?  Try this; Paul cannot separate his story from Christ’s story. His story and God’s story are so dove-tailed that they become one-in-the-same story.


Let me try to explain what grabbed me that I never saw before. Romans, from the first verse to the last, is not to be read as a theological treatise (sorry Martin Luther). It’s the most practical, almost earthy story about how God’s meta-narrative marvelously intersects with Paul’s own life story (and ours as well) Thus, wherever I preach, teach or live the Book of Romans, my story should and must come out. Yes, it’s all about Jesus. But it’s also about me and how Jesus has affected who I am, and who I am becoming.


This should resonate with many of you today. For you might think that Paul is far too deep a thinker that you can never fully comprehend his theology. Well, no problem, because Paul is simply introducing himself by telling a story. Yes, it is a re-orienting story, a paradigm-shifting story. But a story nonetheless.


If Paul is right (and he is!) our story intersecting with God’s story creates THE STORY. Paul calls it “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). Thus, maybe storytelling is the most biblical style of evangelism. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann agrees when he says, “evangelism means inviting people into these stories as the defining story of our life, and thereby authorizing people to give up, abandon, and renounce other stories that have shaped their lives in false or distorting ways” (Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism).


So, if you want to be a subversive Christian, a biblical evangelist, following in Paul’s footsteps, simply tell your story. But the transformative power of your story is when you invite others to switch allegiances from their old story to a new life-story found in Christ. So, go and tell!



Help us all to be grace-filled storytellers.

May we welcome others to the eternal narrative which God’s is continually writing.

May His It’s-to-good-to-be-true story become the reality of our lives.

Jesus, may your children live happily ever after.



Now, Go with God.