He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us… More
I slid into the seat across from him, pulled my Southwest Salad from the bag, and unfolded a napkin. How long had it been since we talked? Looking across the table, I noticed the signs of aging on his face. I’m sure he noticed my patches of gray, too. It’s been too long.
“How have you been, bro?” he asked, while wiping the corner of his mouth, then tossing the napkin on the table.
“Good. How about you?”
Our conversations always seem to start with this exchange, but within seconds, it’s like we’ve never become adults, and allowed our responsibilities to impede our getting together.
“Whatcha, been writing lately?” He asked, taking another bite of his chicken sandwich.
“A few things, here and there. Nothing too elaborate.” This led our conversation down a rabbit trail of discussion about various books, branching off into diatribes about all the ills of the world. It was good to see his face and return to old conversations and start new ones. We talked well past our lunchtime, but neither seemed to mind.
Finally, when we stood to leave, he said, “Bro, we need to do this more often.”
“Yeah man, we do. Let’s get back together soon.”
I’m a nerd. Do you want to know how nerdy? I love reading systematic theologies. Currently, I’m working through John M. Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. However, I also have Millard J. Erickson’s Christian Theology on my bookshelf, and of course Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (There might be a few more lying around that I didn’t mention.)
What is Systematic Theology? I offer a few different definitions given by various theologians. First, Louis Berkhof writes, “Systematic theology seeks to give a systematic presentation of all the doctrinal truths of the Christian religion.” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Ch. 4).Next, John M. Frame states, “Systematic theology seeks to apply Scripture by asking what the whole Bible teaches about any subject.” (Frame, Systematic Theology, Ch. 1). Finally, Grudem similarly argues that systematic theology seeks to answer the question, “What does the whole Bible say to us today about any given topic?” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, Ch. 1). For example, what does the whole Bible say about God, man, or angels, etc?
Why do we need systematic theology? Can’t we just read the Bible? If you’ve ever read the Bible, you’ll realize it is a vast book, and it is not a theological treatise. God didn’t inspire a textbook, but a beautiful literary work that comprises differing genres, like poetry, narrative, and discourse. Systematic theology helps synthesize all the teachings of the Bible and presents them in an orderly fashion. When you consider this, the benefit of this discipline becomes apparent, because it provides “handles” with which we can properly hold the teaching of the Scriptures. In other words, it gives us summary statements on Christian beliefs.
I’ve wanted to snap this bike lean photo for a while now. Today, I made it happen. What appears as a bicycle in the bushes to others is a portrait of sacred space for me. To those raised in my hometown of West Green, they know this spot as Corner Ponds off Joe Ellis Road. It was where we skipped rocks, fished, and even swam as kids. But to me, it will always be holy ground. Because about fifteen feet behind where my bike is leaning is where I surrendered to the call to preach.
It was on the banks of Corner Ponds I relented to God’s persistent pursuit. I fought. I argued with Him. There was no way I could stand in front of people and talk, let alone preach. My anxious mind had a way of jumbling my words, twisting my sentences into verbal pretzels that didn’t make sense to me, and especially anyone else. Lord, I will write, but don’t make me speak in front of people. But here, kneeling in the red Georgia clay, I stopped fighting. I told God, I’ll go anywhere and do whatever you want me to, even preach, I’m yours.
From this spot, God has taken a young high school dropout, allowed him to return to school, graduate college with honors, sent him to share the gospel on two continents, pastor multiple churches, become a Christian educator (even be voted Teacher of the Year), and write articles read around the world. Don’t tell me God can’t use you because I know He will if you surrender.
Please understand me. This is not a look-at-me-aren’t-I-wonderful post. Honestly, I still see myself as the nervous kid when I look in the mirror. I never want to forget where God has brought me from. That’s why I returned to the Corner Ponds today.