Two Years in Louisville (Aug 2, 2010 – Aug 2, 2012)

Yesterday, August 1, marked two years since we pulled a U-Haul from Santo, Texas to Louisville to start a new chapter in our lives.  That last day in Texas was a Sunday, so I preached my final sermon at the church I’d been pastoring, we had lunch with the congregation in the fellowship hall, and that afternoon we made one final pass through the parsonage to gather up any loose ends.  We locked the door, handed over the keys, climbed in the idling vehicles, and drove onto I-20.

And today, August 2, marks two years since we arrived in Louisville, Kentucky.  We pulled up to the townhome we’d be renting (and still are!).  Wise or not, the day of our move-in was the first time we’d been inside it.  Unloading felt strange, jarring.  The reality was sinking in that we’d left our families in Texas and our familiar lives behind too.  Louisville was now home.

It’s been an adventure for sure.  Jensen was only a year and a half old, Stacie and I had been married five years, and we were journeying to a city where we had no relatives, close friends, or a job.  We’d been saving money in order to garner time for me to find ministry work, and that interval of time would give me the chance to focus on doctoral work as I began a PhD in Biblical Studies.

Now, two years later, Jensen will soon be four years old, we have a one-year-old named Logan, and another Baby is due in February.  Time has flown by, life is crazy a lot of the time, and our house is very noisy.  Though sometimes the decibel level is a mental strain, I’d much prefer that to the alternative.  On one occasion I was here a week while Stacie was away with the kids, and the silence soon became unbearable.  I love my little boys with their whackiness–probably because I was just like that when I was a kid.  (Stacie would say I’m still like that.)

Stacie and I just celebrated seven years of marriage, and both of us will soon leave our 20s.  I feel like I’ve known her forever, and there’s nothing like being married to your best friend.  We both agree that life in Louisville has been tough at times, but it has been such a rewarding and exciting season too.

We’ve seen the Lord provide financially through several part-time jobs, though a full-time ministry position is still what we’re praying for.  Not every month has been as demanding as some, but right before this summer there was a span of months when I worked four part-time jobs simultaneously: as a teacher at a Christian academy, a grader for several classes at Southern Seminary, a sales associate at the LifeWay bookstore on the seminary’s campus, and an interim pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.

The Lord is good, and somehow I’ve found the time to complete all my doctoral course work in the two years we’ve been here.  My townhome office (which has no door) is ten feet from the living room, so I’ve managed to hone a particular set of skills.  I can exegete a Greek passage with “Green Eggs and Ham” on the television, I can study Hebrew flashcards with my three-year-old holding them up and then putting them in a separate stack, I can write a sermon through the shrill cries of a baby throwing fits, I can write and edit large sections of a research paper with either boy in my lap, and I can read long books in the living room as long as I stop intermittently to also read “Good Night, Moon” or a tale of Curious George.  Why bother with an office door at all at this point?

But Southern Seminary is worth it.  It’s an incredible school with an outstanding faculty, and I’m so blessed to study under the supervision of my friend and teacher Jim Hamilton.  The Lord used his classroom teaching to impact me greatly in Texas in 2005, and his writing and preaching continue to do the same to this day.  I’m so grateful to be at SBTS, and now my studies have an end in sight.  There’s a set of comprehensive exams I must pass, and then there’s a dissertation to write.  Lord-willing, sometime next year I’ll be done.

It’s simply not possible to recount all the blessings we’ve experienced while we’ve been here.  But we have two working vehicles, which is amazing, considering that my car is from my high school days and has 250,000 miles on it!  The other, a van completely paid off, was an unexpected gift from a family member, and it has been such a tremendous resource and has made a hundred things easier and more efficient.

We’re also grateful for Kenwood Baptist Church, which we soon began attending when we arrived in Louisville.  Their elders and leaders are tremendous men of God who love their families and the church.  For several months now, due to my interim pastorate at Kosmosdale, we’ve been away from Kenwood, but the Lord gave us such good friends during the time we were there.  Kenwood was a fountain of great refreshment and rejuvenation each week we gathered, and we commend the wonderful preaching and various ministries of that place.

I could go on and on, but I’ll force myself to stop right here.  We love Louisville and are so glad the Lord opened the door for us to come here.

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Semester #4 at SBTS

I’m excited to report these next words: this last semester completed my required course work for my PhD in Biblical Studies.  It feels great to be officially done with classes!

So, as with semesters 1, 2, and 3, here’s the breakdown of this fourth one:

(1) On Tuesdays and Thursdays I took “Advanced Greek Grammar.”  Our in-class reading/translation was The Epistle to Diognetus, and each of us had to choose an additional non-biblical text to go through–I chose the letter of Ignatius to Polycarp.  The class also consulted numerous articles and books on the Greek language, amassing many helpful resources for future language work.  This class was stimulating, challenging, and helpful on many levels.  Though I might not have expected it, this class was my favorite at SBTS during these four semesters of doctoral work.

(2) On Wednesday mornings I attended a seminar on “The Gospel of John.”  On the first day of class I presented on the Greek of John 1:1-18, the marvelous prologue of the Fourth Gospel.  A few weeks later I presented a research paper on John 5:19-30.  Throughout the semester our class had rich discussion and edifying presentations.  Each student also consulted a commentary on John’s Gospel in order to bring another scholarly perspective to the day’s passage and paper, and mine was John Ramsey Michaels’ new contribution to the NICNT series.

(3) Also on Wednesdays I went to a seminar on “Approaches to Old Testament Theology.”  From week to week, students presented rounds of book reviews and then rounds of research papers, and the discussion was insightful and interesting, even when there was disagreement.  I presented a book review on John Sailhamer’s Introduction to Old Testament Theology, and I wrote a paper entitled “The Presence and Development of Resurrection Hope: An Inquiry into the Law, Prophets, and Writings.”

My semesters at SBTS seemed only to get better and better, so part of me is sad to see the course work come to an end.  But this crucial juncture in the program means a dissertation lies ahead–and, beyond that, graduation.

Semester #3 at SBTS

My third semester at Southern Seminary recently ended, so–as I did for semesters 1 and 2–here is a summary of the classes.

(1) On Tuesdays I attended “The History of Interpretation of the Gospels.”  This doctoral seminar took students through the main eras of church history and examined the ways prominent and obscure people handled the Four Gospels.  We had provocative and lively discussion.  This class was stimulating, informative, and edifying.

(2) The “New Testament Colloquium” was on Wednesdays.  Students and the New Testament faculty went through Brevard Childs’ Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.

(3) Thursdays was dedicated to a class on “Romans,” one of my favorite books in the Bible.  Students chose a Romans commentary to read and a Romans book to review.  My choices were N. T. Wright’s commentary and Charles Cosgrove’s Elusive Israel, respectively.  I enjoyed the first one but disliked the second.

(4) On November 28 there was a one-day “Old Testament Colloquium.”  The theme was “Christ in the Old Testament,” and students were assigned books to read and then present to the class.  I chose Sidney Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, which I loved and found very insightful.

I wrote this during the 2-month break between the fall and spring semesters.  It seems, though, that a break only means an early period to begin work on next semester’s assignments.  Here’s to buckling down and getting ahead!

Semester #2 at SBTS

With my second semester of PhD work now over, I’m thankful for a 3-month summer break.  We have a baby due in 4 weeks, so not having class will be a blessing!  Here’s a summary of the semester load:

(1) Before the semester officially started, I took a 1-day “Old Testament Colloquium” that featured lectures from Dr. Anson Rainey.  These lectures were held in December 2010, and Dr. Rainey died in February 2011 at age 81.  I was glad to see this renowned scholar before he passed away.

(2) Before the semester started, I also took a 3-day “Graduate Research Seminar,” where students are reminded about the dos and don’ts in doctoral writing assignments.  Much of the course was simply review from a similar one I’d taken at Southwestern Seminary during my ThM track, but it was good review nonetheless.

(3) “Hebrew Prose” was based mainly in the text of Numbers.  This class helped reinforce and expand my understanding of Hebrew, and it helped me realize how much more I need to learn!  I loved Dr. Russell Fuller’s method and example in class.  We had weekly translation and vocabulary, as well as assignments from Dr. Fuller’s Hebrew Grammar and Syntax book.

(4) “Galatians” was led by Dr. Tom Schreiner.  Everyone wrote and presented a paper for the class to critique and challenge for 2 hours.  I chose the first slot, which meant Galatians 1:1-10 was my assignment.  Though it was intimidating to be the first presenter, I was glad to get the hardest part of the class over!  Each classmate had to choose a Galatians commentary to read during the week, and I chose Ben Witherington’s Grace in Galatia.  This class was enjoyable because of the topics from Galatians and the insightful classmates.

(5) “New Testament Colloquium” was a round-table formatted class that included student and professor interaction.  The book for the semester was A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters by Andreas Kostenberger.  We dialogued each week about chapters chosen by the lead professor, Dr. Bill Cook.

(6) “Approaches to New Testament Theology” was focused on the theme of covenant in biblical theology.  We read a series of books and then each student presented papers on passages pertinent to covenant.  Dr. Mark Seifrid kept us engaged on what can be a very complex and dense topic.  The books, papers, and weekly interaction taught us more about what it means for God to be in covenant with his people.

I very much enjoyed my second semester of classes.  It was a lot of work, but work well worth it.  For now: hello, summer, I’m so glad you’ve arrived!

Semester #1 at SBTS

I love Southern Seminary.  The professors are stellar, the environment is family-friendly, and the classes are tough.  Here’s my Fall 2010 semester in a nutshell:

Before the semester officially began, I completed a two-day class on Higher Education, focusing specifically on Christian education in universities and seminaries.  It further stirred my desire to teach in a classroom.

I took four classes during the semester itself:
(1) German was interesting, though it was only one semester long, and the emphasis was on translation rather than conversation–which made the work remarkably easier!

(2) I took a Greek class on 2 Maccabees, which was by far the most challenging.  The out-of-class work was demanding, but the reaping will surely be worth the sowing.

(3) Another class was round-table format, with students presenting each week on different subjects.  Several professors attended each session, and listening to their interactions with each other was informative and funny.

(4) My last class was on the history of Israel’s religion in the Old Testament.  For this class, I wrote two research papers which covered the development of Israel’s faith from Exodus through 2 Kings.  This was my favorite class.

In November, I had the privilege to teach once for my PhD supervisor, Jim Hamilton.  He planned to be out of town for the Evangelical Theological Society meeting, and he asked me to teach the MDiv students in his Hermeneutics class.  I lectured on the interpretation of the New Testament letters.  Loved every minute.

Can’t wait for the second semester, even though I’m thoroughly enjoying my two month break.

Change Has Come…and is Still Coming

Well, I’m back from my long hiatus from blogging.

As I start this post, my family has moved to Louisville, KY, where I am a student in the PhD program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  We left Texas on August 1, where I was pastoring the First Baptist Church in Santo, and we arrived in Louisville on August 2.

So we’ve been in Louisville for over a month now, and we really love it here.  The seminary is stellar and fantastic, people are friendly, and we are making friends.

I have the privilege of studying in the Biblical Studies track of the PhD program, guided and supervised by Dr James Hamilton Jr.

Currently I’m in four classes every week: German, Intertestamental Language (which focuses on 2 Maccabees), New Testament Colloquium (which is a roundtable format with discussion led by a different student every week, focusing on a different article every week), and A History of Israel’s Religion.

I feel perpetually behind most days, but apparently that’s a common feeling among my fellow students.

I will try to blog often, and I hope you’ll keep reading.