Commencement: Courage and Humility

The time has come! I will be participating in graduation ceremonies tomorrow and the road through seminary will be mostly done. I still have one course to complete (by DVD) this summer. Again, the degree is "Master of Arts in Exegetical Theology" – I think I remember taking a course where I had to learn just how to spell all of that. :-)

As we did our rehearsal this afternoon, I found myself sitting next to a couple of very interesting guys and their stories caused me to reflect on my own journey to seminary.

Sitting two seats down from me is Mark Driscoll. Mark is one of the pastors of Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington. I’ve enjoyed listening to Mark’s sermons via podcast for the last couple of years and admire both his mission and teaching. But the thing that really impresses me is the story of how Mark got into seminary. The way I heard it was this: my theology professor, Dr. Gerry Breshears, heard Mark speak at some event and got to chat with him. He suggested that maybe Mark might want to sharpen his theological saw by going back to school. Now Mark, who has admitted as much, was not always known for his humility. He is the pastor of a very large, growing, and influential church! But instead of telling my theology professor to get lost, he said, sure, and submitted himself to getting himself better trained.
That really impresses me. And on several levels. First is that a guy like Driscoll would submit himself to going back to school. Second, that a guy like Driscoll would carve out and take the time to do all that work to get through graduate school. All of that speaks of a combination of courage and humility that I must learn from.

Sitting right next to me is David Gilford. David works at a local college and has gone through seminary part time for a few years. David and I were in a few classes together. The last one was our “theology capstone” course where we had to create a unified doctrinal statement and then defend our theological conclusions in a mini-ordination interview. Now here’s the thing – David comes from the Assemblies of God which is firmly in the Pentecostal part of our big Evangelical tent. Now you might call Western Seminary many things, but Pentecostal is not a description that anyone would apply to the school! Yet here David is, getting trained and putting up with some pretty inane comments (some of which came from me). David always impressed me as being a very bright and systematic student – he is one of the bright guys on campus. So here David was, occasionally getting some less-than-supportive comments and he has, in all that I’ve observed, responded with grace, tact, and the Bible.
David has really impressed me. He’s come to a school that does not share all of his theological convictions and, even just a few years ago, would have been positively hostile towards him. Still, he has submitted to being trained here for ministry. That’s a combination of courage and humility that is powerful.

Both David and Mark are great examples of the caliber of people that it has been my very great privilege to study with for these last two and a half years.

During this time of the year, maybe it could be a reminder to honor your own pastor and the training and education that he committed to so that he would be able to serve and care for you. Honor your pastor!


Christian Lawyers

I had a dear friend from way back send me a news story a while back, asking me to comment.

The story is, in a nutshell, about an Islamic school in Minnesota that seems to be receiving preferential treatment in clear violation of what we've come to recognize as maintaining the "separation of church and state." Of course, for political reasons and the manifest fact that Muslims are Very Touchy People, nobody in power in Minnesota seems to want to apply the very clear laws on religious liberties and religious limitations to this Islamic school.

So, as a lawyer (member of the California Bar since 1994), I look at the apparent facts, apply what I know of U.S. Constitutional law, and see that this situation is ripe for a lawsuit. Christians could sue the state of Minnesota requesting relief in requiring the state to provide equal treatment regarding religious liberties. From the facts I know, it seems it would be a slam-dunk.


Oh, but I forgot!!!

We can’t find anyone to help us Christians sue to correct this clear violation of the U.S. Constitution because, after all…

Being a “Christian Lawyer” is a contradiction in terms! Ha, ha, ha!

Next time you need legal help, hire a comedian.

Yep, no apologies here; being made fun of, marginalized, and ridiculed for being both a fully devoted follower of Jesus and an attorney at law is not fun. Sure, why shouldn't I be insulted, jeered, and my personal integrity, honesty, and devotion to Jesus called into question??

Yep, don't you know I feel all affirmed and supported by my brothers and sisters in Christ when they tell me they know the law better than I do because some radio preacher told 'em so; when they tell me I don't have a 'real doctorate;' when I'm automatically placed in the same category with the worst example of lawyer that they've ever met or even heard of.

Yep, listening to "lawyer jokes" where people laugh at the thought of lawyers being tortured, mutilated, and killed is exactly the way I want to begin a relationship with the joke teller. Hmmmm. What an interesting way to start a relationship with a stranger: I just let you know that I'm a lawyer and the first thing you do is tell a story that apparently expresses your wish to see me dying a horrifying death. Ha-ha. Thank you; such a pleasure to meet you, as well. Please, sir, may I have another?

Ahhh; what's the matter - can't I take a joke?

Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Don't you know it; that I feel the love from my fellow disciples of Jesus!

Same thing goes for Christian teachers in the public school system, Christian business people working in corporate life, Christians working in mainstream media, and so forth. Christians who actually want to love God and love their neighbor get the stuffing kicked out of them on a pretty regular basis. They get kicked at by their workplace for being Christians, and then they come to church and get really worked over for actually trying to live and declare the gospel to people who really need to see it.

Next time you bemoan the deterioration of American culture, be sure to thank God for the foresight you exercised by encouraging other Christians *from* being a Christ-honoring presence in our culture.