Teaching the Generations

Many of you know how you can read a Scripture passage and something jumps out at you that you never saw before. I attribute that to the leading of the Holy Spirit. A few days ago, I was reading in Psalm 71 when my mind (and spirit?) was arrested by just a few words—verses 9 and 18—separated from the rest of the text but united in thought.

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. . . .

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

What did this mean to me? Well, first of all, although I am certainly getting old-er, I don’t yet consider myself old in the classic sense. My strength is not yet gone, I am not yet seriously contemplating retirement, and I don’t feel forsaken of God.

I am gray; I’ll grant that one. But if none of the rest is totally applicable to me, why was I affected by these words?

One never knows when one’s strength will ebb more quickly, and I believe I have a lot to do still in my life and in the ministry God has given me. Perhaps it was the fact that I was grading students in finals week, another semester nearing its end.

It was those final words that meant the most to me, especially when coupled with the potential onset of older age: I teach the next generation; I want those students to know of God’s power, His mighty acts, and His abiding presence that He wants to implant within each one of them.

I began my university teaching career rather late. I didn’t receive my doctorate until I was 38, which was the time I got my first fulltime position. My 30th year of teaching will begin this upcoming fall, and I am now seeing, via Facebook, some of my former students beginning to send their children to college.

That is stunning to me. How can this be, I ask myself? The old cliché about time marching on is rearing its head. If any of my former students were to send their children to Southeastern to study under me, I would be teaching a second generation. Astounding. Why? Because in my mind, I’m not that old.

I am grateful for the many years the Lord has given me to teach those who will carry His light into this sad parody of a society we live in today. I look forward to continuing that quest. My health is still good; my strength is not gone; the vision remains vivid in my spirit.

And to all of my former students, I offer this word: send your children to me and I promise to give them all I can, everything the Lord has placed in me to pass on to the next generation.

Reflections of a Natural Introvert

I’m an introvert. Really, I am. Whenever I inform students of that fact, they have a hard time believing it because I’m animated when I teach and love to interact with humor.

But I am an introvert.

BooksMy natural inclination is to sit in my recliner in my study, surrounded by books, and devote myself to them. Let the world go away. Give me my peace and solitude. That, and a cup of coffee, is a pleasurable way to pass the time.

I’m constantly reading. Here’s what I have going right now on my reading schedule: C. S. Lewis’s The Allegory of Love (slow going for someone who is not well versed in medieval writings); Paradise Lost (taking up a challenge because I’ve never read it and I would like to understand Lewis’s preface to it—another future reading); Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Clichés (honing my cultural analysis); Os Guinness’s new book, Impossible People (a clarion call for Christians to be thorough Christians in our culture); and another Stephen Lawhead novel (because I just love his writing).

Yes, I’m reading all of those simultaneously. When classes begin again, I’m not going to get quite as much reading done as I am now.

That natural inclination to withdraw and enjoy my own little world comes into conflict with the urge within me, planted by God, I believe, to break out of the cocoon and speak His truth.

That’s why I teach, and that’s why I write this blog. Personally, I would love to avoid all controversies. I would relish leaving politics behind, especially this year when I see no viable option for the presidency.

Yet there is this “calling.” I’ve mentioned the prophet Jeremiah before, the one who cried out to God that he didn’t want to speak anymore because he kept getting bad reactions to his words. I understand.

Take My YokeThis is what God does to (and for) us, though. He pushes us out of that place of comfort. He tells us to take up His cross and be His disciples. He never promised that we would sail through life without burdens to bear.

I know that. Some days I embrace it; other days I utter the Jeremiah complaint.

The Lord allows us to withdraw at times; Jesus did the same in His ministry. But all withdrawals are for one purpose: regaining the strength to continue the calling. Withdrawals, if done properly, are the times we draw on His reservoir of grace so that we will be the most effective witnesses of His truth that we can be.

All of my reading is part of the preparation to be what God wants me to be in that world out there. As long as I keep that perspective, and not make an idol out of those relaxed times of peace, He will be able to use me for His ongoing purposes.

That’s my reflection for today. I thank God for the time to reflect. It steels me for whatever lies ahead.

Another Personal Reflection

This daily commentary takes stock of current events in light of Biblical truth. It’s just who I am. I don’t have to force or impose a certain meaning on those events because I quite naturally interpret everything through that Biblical prism. Today, I want to step back a bit and simply be thankful for what the Lord has given, and what He has allowed me to do. We should all do this regularly.

I’m thankful, above all else, for being redeemed from a selfish existence, devoid of meaning. I’m grateful the Lord loved me enough to intervene in this world to provide a path toward Him and out of spiritual darkness. There is no purpose apart from the One who created all from nothing. He is the reason we even have an existence.

From that firm foundation, He opened a door for the possibility of other relationships. Today, I want to publicly offer thanks for forty years of marriage to someone who has stuck with me through every difficulty. The past two years have been particularly hard, with my wife undergoing cancer treatments. Currently, the cancer is gone, but we are realistic; we know it is an aggressive one and may come back, but we are living every moment with the knowledge that even death cannot separate us from the love of God. This life is only a preparation for what is to come.

Although our children are now out of the house, married, and having children of their own, that doesn’t mean they are out of mind. Once parents, always parents. I can say without qualification that I appreciate my children more now than at any time in my life. Perhaps that’s maturity. One would hope at the ripe age of 61 maturity would be a more constant companion.

Those children have now given us five grandchildren—with two more on the way this year. Being a grandfather has been a whole new phase of life. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would take to the word “grandpa,” but it’s now one of my fondest titles. I’m anticipating seeing them reach their early adult years at least, and want to have as much influence on their lives as I can, trusting in the mercy of God for more time to do so.

Those of you who read my mini-life-story back in my December posts know that the Lord gave me a second chance to teach. There are some certainties in life; one of mine is that I am meant to be a teacher. The place where He has put me now affords ample opportunities to speak His truth in history. The students He has given me are my responsibility; I must be faithful to His calling. I’ve experienced rough patches along the way, but, overall, I enjoy this ministry, believing I am contributing to the number who will enter His kingdom and that I will have helped many grow in their faith.

As an extension of the classroom, the Lord also has allowed me to write. While I am not as prolific as some in my field, I am satisfied that every article and book I’ve written has been worthwhile. I have no regrets for thoughts expressed or wording used. Like Noah Webster, I want to be sure that nothing I’ve published ever led anyone to sin. My completed manuscript on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers remains without a publisher currently, but I maintain faith it will find a home eventually. There really is something about God’s timing. Meanwhile, a new writing collaboration is brewing that could be exciting.

Bottom line: life with God is always an adventure, and regardless of the obstacles that undoubtedly await, I have the assurance He is with me at every juncture.

So, now it’s time to get on with life today. Thank you, Lord, for making it worth the walk.