Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pray for those building the Technology you use every day!

I have been involved in many online communities over the years in areas involving technology. Most especially I have been involved in many Linux communities (a Free, Open Source Operating System that basically runs the Internet, for those who aren't in the know).

When Google+ came on the scene a few years ago, most of the world ignored it, and it never really took off, but many niche groups, such as tech guys and photographers really gravitated to it. It was like a big online hobby club.

Linux folks were no exception. It became the social media platform for Linux guys. I was able to connect with many brilliant people from all over the world who were involved in making Linux. It was great.

It was also during one of my spiritual low-points leading up to returning to Christ. It was during this point that I was very close to becoming an atheist. Largely as a result of these folks, honestly.

You see, many of these people think that just because they are smart, they can't buy into religion. Religion is just something for dumb, weak minded sheep. Right? Well, sadly I had almost bought into this. I was beginning to think "I am smart, I can't believe this stuff anymore either". These were people I respected. These were the people I wanted to be like.

A funny thing happened though, Christ touched my heart, he changed it. Sitting in a field beside a little country church back home in South Carolina on the 4th of July, 2013 he changed my heart forever.

After returning to Christ, my priorities, obviously changed. I was simply less interested in Linux and more interested in learning more about the Bible, theology, the church, well the list goes on, and you get the idea. If you look back, you will see a definite change in the topic of this blog just over a year ago -- you'll get the idea.

As a result in this change in priority, I just stopped checking Google+ and specifically my Linux circles. To start with, to read the things that these folks wrote about Christians (or really any religion) in general just made me mad, and I felt it was best to simply not read them. I just couldn't "hang out" with these guys anymore.

I didn't completely quit using Google+, but I did set my "Linux" and "Software Dev Folks" to not show on my timeline. This morning, for some reason I clicked it, and mixed in with all the cool software development post were a few post that sent these guys on a big "Christians are idiot sheeple" rants as usual, and it dawned on me.

I can't ignore these people. I have to pray for them!

Will you join me? These are the very people who make the stuff you use and depend on every day. They make the platforms you use to read your digital Bible. Do you use Android? Well if so you are using Linux, friend! You should read some of the cursing rants Linus Torvalds (the creator of Linux) has gone on with people who volunteer their time to make Linux...he's not a nice person, he really isn't, he treats people like dirt regularly and I can't believe how long I idolized him and many others just like him in that industry (if you want to see what I mean, just Google 'Linus Torvalds f word' if you aren't sensitive to such's sad really).

So please, join me in praying for these folks. Pray that God will touch their hearts just like he did mine, and show them that you can be smart, and Christian. Pray that they will find the pure joy that I found. I hope they do, I really do.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

This week we have been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights act here at Southeastern Seminary. This morning, we had a special Wednesday chapel with a panel discussion composed of activists and historians reflecting on the Civil Rights act.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Danny Akin and was made up of historian Dr. Gerald Smith who is currently currently an associate professor of history and the Martin Luther King Center Scholar-in Residence at the University of Kentucky. Also, Dr. David Roach another historian who earned his PhD in church history from Southern Seminary in Louisville where his dissertation focused on Southern Baptists and civil rights during the second half of the twentieth century. Also on the panel was our own Associate Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College,  Dr. Brent Aucoin who not only authored the book A rift in the Clouds which examines the efforts of some Federal Judges in the South to protect the civil rights of African Americans, he also has a book soon to be published, The Strange Career of Thomas Goode Jones, which shows how one white leader in Alabama worked secretly with Booker T. Washington to end debt peonage, convict leasing, and the lynching of African Americans. And I especially enjoyed hearing from Mr. Clarence Henderson who bravely participated in the sit-in in 1960 at Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro NC.

With recent events that have occurred, such as what has occurred in Ferguson, MO I am delighted that Southeastern Seminary is dedicated to Kingdom Diversity.

Photo from SC Department of Archives and History
As I was listening to a discussion this morning that turned to Emmett Till, an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at age 14 because he was accused of flirting with a white woman. I was reminded of the story of George Stinney Jr.

George Stinney never made it past age 14 either. George Stinney was one of the youngest persons to be executed in the United States in the 20th Century. In March of 1944, Stinney was arrested for the murder of two little (white) girls, ages 8 and 11 in Alcolu, SC. They passed by the Stinney's property asking George and his sister if they knew where to find some flowers they were searching. The girls never returned home, and after a huge search party was organized, the bodies of the little girls were found the next morning.

The entire process from arrest to execution for this young boy was just 81 days. He was executed on June 16, 1944. He carried a Bible in his arm to the Electric Chair (where a booster seat was required). The boy was only 5'2" and 90 lbs.

I first heard of George Stinney when I was in High School. We had moved from my home town of Florence, SC to Manning SC (in Clarendon County, near Alcolu where Stinney was from). In my history class in 9th grade, I had to write a paper on a historical event from SC. I have been fascinated with history, and doing research through old newspapers and such since I was a child, and I was in the Clarendon County Library doing research for my paper and the Librarian told me about George Sinney, and guided me toward some old newspapers with articles containing information on him, and the trial. This was in 1995. I was scolded by my history teacher for writing a paper on the subject. You see, in Manning (actually all of Clarendon County) at that time was a very racially tense place. The KKK was still very active, black churches were being burned, there were cases of police brutality against African-Americans, and my teacher said that was not an appropriate subject for me to be writing on, and strongly suggested that I take the next week and re-do my assignment (we were to give a presentation in class). I didn't, and got a standing ovation from the (probably 90% black) class, who had never heard the story.  I still only got a C on the paper. It didn't matter how well written, or received it was at that point. I wish I still had a copy of it -- I'd like to go back and read what I had written then.

There has been some good news recently regarding George Stinney. Back in January of this year, Lawyers were finally able to argue on behalf of George in a courtroom -- something he was denied back in 1944. His supporters have applied for a pardon.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Students these days...

It's been some 12 years since I've been in school. I've noticed a few things here in my first few weeks of classes here at SEBTS. I'm going to focus on two areas: note taking and general attitude.

Note Taking:
I'm not so old that we didn't have computers when I was last in school. I'm even not so old that we didn't have laptop computers. I was even hipster before hipster was in our vocabulary because I had an Apple laptop (I had a 500MHz Powerbook G3 Pismo that I purchased in 2001 just -- what seemed like mere days before the Powerbook G4 was announced). I may have had that laptop with me in class, I would have never...I mean, it just wouldn't have occurred to me to plop that bad boy down on my desk, open it up and start typing away during a lecture. I couldn't type fast enough back then anyway.

I'm amazed at the varying note taking styles I see from my fellow students.

There are some who (like me) take notes the old-fashioned way, with an analogue tablet. I feel that I retain more if I actually write with a pen and paper. My average typing speed is over 100 wpm... actually, on I'm usually closer to 110 on most tests I take, meaning for me, typing is autopilot. I don't even think about what I'm typing -- I just move my fingers and words are on the screen. Voila!

Most of the professors give us copies of the powerpoint presentations in PDF format, so I focus on what is being said, making notes on what jumps out as profound as well as things that are said that simply aren't on the slide. I notice many (both writers and typists) try to both copy the slide and type (or write) everything the professor is saying. I'm almost certain they are so busy they don't remember what is being said.

Another thing that strikes me as odd, is that every single person I have seen typing notes has been typing notes in MS Word. I really want to introduce these people to Evernote. I couldn't imagine keeping my notes organized as a smattering of MS Word files instead of using the built in organization and searching abilities that Evernote gives me! Although I write my notes, I go back and type them into Evernote. Yes, I know it takes more time (it's an entire 10 minutes of my day per class I will never get back), but I get double exposure. I also, as I'm going through and retyping them, reference the slides to add particular notes that I felt that the professor stressed or lingered on in class. Also, as I mentioned, we (usually) get the slides (which I also keep organized by class and lecture date in Dropbox).

General Attitude:
I don't mean to imply that many fellow students I've encountered have a bad attitude. I wouldn't expect that at a seminary (although I'm sure there are a few that do), there is one particular trait I've picked up on from a couple of fellow students in a couple of different classes: students trying to teach the professor. I promise I don't ever remember that from my days at Francis Marion University, so perhaps that is a seminary thing -- or perhaps it's just a generational thing. I, personally am here to learn, not show off how much I know. Yes, fellow students, I'm impressed that you know some big words (and some big theological terms at that!), but I'm here to hear from those who have a lot of letters behind their names, and pretty diplomas hanging on their office walls, and far be it from me to try to tell them anything. I'm here to be a sponge and soak up everything I can. Although I feel particularly called to the academy, and I may be on the other side of that lectern one day, that day is a long way from right now, and I have plenty of time to get there, and then, and only then will I try to wow students with big theological terms.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

By Faith...

This morning in chapel here at Southeastern Seminary, Dr. Thomas White, president of Cedarville University preached for us. He preached from Hebrews 11, specifically lingering around v. 23 but I'm going to quote 23-28 here for you:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11:23-28, ESV)
His message really hit home to me in several ways. I sat there thinking about how happy I was just to be here. I wake up every single day just happy to be HERE. I know the Lord put me HERE at Southeastern for a reason. All I could think about for the 9 months or so leading up to coming here was being HERE at Southeastern.

By faith I asked my job if I could work remotely. By faith I packed up some stuff in my car and drove here. By faith I'm living in a half of a room in the basement of an old house, sleeping on what amounts to a little more than a cot every night rather than in my own home I'm still paying for, sleeping on my nice new mattress that I'm still paying for. I'm getting up at 6AM and juggling work responsibilities, school responsibilities and still maintaing some personal time for my sanity. I'm doing this all by faith that God has big plans for me.

Not unlike Moses, I had a perfectly good life back home. I have a good job, I make enough money to meet my financial obligations and still shove some away for a rainy day most of the time. Although I love my company and I know that they are supportive of me, I took a risk asking to come up here and work remotely, and I'm still praying that it will work out for a more long term situation. I don't want this to end. I'm doing all of this with absolute and pure joy. I have never been happier or more at peace with myself as I have been since I arrived at this campus.

I know that God has plans for me. I have put all of my trust in King Jesus to support me and give me the strength, grit and determination I need to get this done. I know he will. I have faith in what God has revealed to me through the Bible about Jesus, and I know that I will accomplish my goal here.

I still get down on my knees every single day and thank God that I am HERE at Southeastern.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Calvinism vs. hyper-Calvinism

One of the classes I'm taking  this semester is "Faith, Reason and the Christian Mind" which is being taught by Dr. Jamie Dew.

The question came up  about how Calvinists could support missions (or Evangelism) if they believe that God controls everything, and that only certain people are called or elected to salvation. Dr. Dew handled the question superbly. A fellow student was simply going on what they had been told by others, and I'm really glad that they asked the question so they would no longer hold such a skewed view of many of our Christian brothers and sisters.

Early on in my conversion I was a full fledged 7-point "Piperist". I got through that phase but I would still consider myself Calvinistic, let's call me a "moderate" Calvinist, a term I have heard in a couple of books I have been reading.1

I won't quote Dr. Dew here, but we agree that there have been many from church history such as Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Boyce, Broadus, Judson -- all Calvinistic men who were evangelical, missional and still embraced Reformed Theology.

It brought back to mind some thoughts I'd had as I was reading the two books I mentioned above. So many times I hear where people relate 5-point Calvinism (or "High Calvinism" as a term I've seen in both of these books as the opposite to "Moderate Calvinism") to hyper-Calvinism. I'm going to quote from an excerpt from an e-mail our seminary president, Dr. Danny Akin wrote back in 2006 in regards to some concerns he had with students and theological integrity and responsibility.
In regards to 5-point Calvinism being the same as hyper-Calvinism: This statement again demonstrates historical ignorance. Hyper-Calvinism is a particular movement that appeared in the mid 1700's that rejects the mandate to share the gospel, denies man's responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, and in some instances runs perilously close to making God the author of sin...Perhaps what some mean by "hyper-Calvinism" is extreme Calvinism or Calvinists with an attitude. I have met more than a few in my lifetime and to be sure, they were not of much value when it comes to the health of the church and reaching the lost. Still, we need to be honest with history and accurate with the facts. Mischaracterizations are of no value on any level.2
I don't believe a contemporary supralapsarian 5-point Calvinist would agree with any of those points.

I would also like to point you to an article our seminary president Dr. Akin wrote back in 2006 on Calvinism. Now, if you know Dr. Akin's theology, you'll know that he is not a 5-point Calvinist but I feel he described and critiqued the doctrines of grace very succinctly here and I highly commend it to you if you are interested.

Sure, there are some Calvinists that are jerks about their theology, but I've come across some non-Calvinists (I won't use the term Arminian for this blanket category) who were also jerks about their theology. I don't feel that either camp does anything to help the Kingdom. We should be focusing on a sound, Biblical theology that preaches the gospel of King Jesus rather than standing on different sides of the issue and pointing fingers over things that Christians have consistently disagreed about throughout the history of the church such as soteriology and eschatology.

Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism and Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue
2 Sage, Courageous Counsel from Dr. Danny Akin

Friday, August 8, 2014

SEBTS, Day 1.

Well, I finally made it.

The Lord led me here. I am so thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon me to get me here. God's hands have been all over my life the past few months.

Today was the first time I ever set foot on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, but I've known it was where I was supposed to be for months now.

I walked around the campus late this afternoon. I can really feel God's presence here. I am so thankful He put me here.

I felt God's calling strongly in September. I told myself I was crazy -- there was no way I could go to seminary. I felt called to SEBTS right away. I knew it was where I was supposed to go, but  I couldn't see the plan yet. God knew the plan, and he knew that I'd be sitting right here in the basement of Shaw house at SEBTS today.

I have been so blessed.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Go therefore and make disciples...

I have been blessed in so many ways over the past few weeks. I have wanted to put some words together, but there has been so much going through my head, it's been tough. This is going to be long, but if you are interested in what makes me tick, read on.

I was raised up in church most of my life. As a child, my Mom took me to many different kinds of churches: Southern Methodist, Free Will Baptist, Pentecostal Holiness, Assemblies of God and a few others. As a child I was "saved" and baptized as a part of a Free Will Baptist church...old school style in Lynches River while everybody was singing "Shall We Gather at the River". It's a great memory. I'm glad I had that experience.

I first felt the call to be a minister as a child really, as funny as it sounds. My Mom (and others around me) thought it was 'cute' when I preached to people in Dr.'s office waiting rooms, etc. That faded and again, in my teenage years I felt another tug at my heart. Sadly, I didn't listen, or even tell anyone about it.  The first major setback in my life plans happened when I was about 16. My Mom was a baker in a grocery store. We never had much when I was growing up, but she did the very best she could with her 9th grade education. We ended up moving and I ultimately, sadly dropped out of school -- I went to work as a concrete finisher.

A few years later my Mom had gotten really ill, and became unable to work. We moved back to my hometown so that she could be closer to family. I went into a pretty deep state of depression about school and the fact that I had allowed myself to do something as dumb as dropping out. On an absolute whim I drove to a local Technical College to ask what I could do. I was 19 at this point -- to old to go back to High School. I met with an admissions counselor she said I could start school in the fall, but I had to take the GED as soon as I could. The next opportunity to take the GED was in September, approximately a month later. I had to pass or I couldn't stay in school. I passed.

You would think that would have taught me a valuable lesson, but ironically it didn't. I had been a musician my entire life. I literally started playing guitar at age 4, and I've known how to play so long I don't even remember learning. As I got older I joined band in school and I had my eyes set to be a HS Band Director. I had my heart set on being a HS Band Director but the local University didn't have a Music major. I couldn't leave my Mom so I transferred anyway from the Tech school to the University after completing a couple of semesters of General Education classes. I flopped around between a few majors and I kind of settled on History. It's a subject that had interested me my entire life. Aside from music, it was the next most logical choice. In college though (as I'm sure so many do) I changed, and not for the better. Two things happened. I discovered I had a problem with Alcohol and through a Music professor I got interested in Computers (using them to Notate/Create music). Shortly, I got interested in the machines themselves and I left school and went full-time into the IT/Computer industry.

All along, my alcohol problem was festering. I no longer did anything but go to work, go home, drink and play video games online. I was a mess. You see, the company I went to work for was a good Christian based organization that creates software for Churches. After about a year and a half my drinking problem caught up with me, I came to work hungover, blew up at my supervisor and I walked out and quit.

I was unemployed for about 6 months, and I wound up working at an electronics retailer. I hated it. I did manage to work my way up through the ranks, but I couldn't help but miss the old job, and I had not only tackled my drinking problem and beaten it, I'd grown as a person. I got in touch with the IT Director and by the grace of God I was allowed to come back to work here. This was in 2007. During all of this, actually at some point during college, I had walked away from Christ and the Church. I'd completely turned my back on my faith.

Fast forward to last year, 2013. It was a horrible year in a lot of ways, except for this one thing. My neighbor kept bugging me to go to a July 4th celebration at a small country church just down the road. I resisted with all my might and came up with every excuse I could possibly come up with. Nothing was enough and my Mom and I went down to this event. As I was sitting there, listening to a youth pastor from another church speak, I quite literally felt my heart change sitting right there in that field. I will always remember the moment I was converted.

My friend, and boss had always been asking me to go to his church. He knew I'd hit it off with the pastor -- he was an ex-IT guy/Programmer also. I decided to visit the next Sunday. Not only have I joined that church, that Pastor has not only become my pastor but one of my best friends. I have since rededicated my life to Christ, been re-baptized and sometime in September of last year I felt that call again.

Except this time, it was irresistible. I hadn't read an entire book since college. Since September, I've read the Bible cover to cover twice (in two translations: HCSB & NASB), and I'm up to Philippians in my third translation (ESV). I spend much time in the Word every day now. Not only that, I can't keep track of all the books I've read since then -- everything I can get my hands on, I read. I have an insatiable hunger to learn, and teach. I am thankful that my pastor has given me the opportunity to teach several times at Wednesday night Prayer Meeting. It's been a great experience. I look forward to any chance I get to dig into God's Word and share with others.

I know I have been led to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I knew that was where the Lord was leading me. I prayed every day for God to show me me a way, any way to make going to SEBTS a reality.

I have to say, I have been blown away by the kindness of everyone I have interacted with from Southeastern. I have been blessed and helped immensely by several staff members. I was devastated when  I discovered I couldn't get student loans, but the school jumped into action and helped me get financial aid. It still hasn't fully sunk in that I will be there next week! I am truly as excited as I have ever been in my life. I finally feel like I know where I belong, and what I should be doing.

This leads to the second part of my blessing. The company I work for, ACS Technologies. At 34, with a job, a house and a dependent parent, it was hard to make a decision to do something this life changing.

Luckily, like Southeastern, ACS Technologies is a Great Commission company. Just check out this tweet from my account back in March at our annual company meeting:

I am truly blessed to be part of the ACS Technologies family. They are allowing me to follow my calling, and continue my work even while in Wake Forest studying. This is really small potatoes compared to some things I've seen this company do. It's an extended family, it really is.

I don't care what kind of need arises, or what tragedy happens ACST employees rally together to help each other. I can't count the number of bake sales, chili lunches, hot dog lunches and other fundraisers that have happened seemingly on the spur of the moment when a need arises with an ACST employee. I am so thankful to work for a company with the same values I have. A company where I am a person, and not just an employee number.

I am so thankful for this opportunity that has been given to me by both ACS Technologies and SEBTS. I am proud to be a part of the ACST family, and I am proud to say I Am Going to SEBTS!

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)