Category Archives: General

A Busy Semester now Finished

This semester has been incredibly busy.

I’ve taken a large load of classes at TEDS, as well as co-teaching a Master’s class at TEDS for almost 2 months.

And we started getting involved with our church here, which we committed to in January. The church is Holy Trinity Church, located in downtown Chicago. The lead pastor is Jon Dennis, who leads our downtown congregation. We’ve really enjoyed going to the church, though it’s a bit far away from where we are in Deerfield. But we love the church and also the weekly small group we’ve been involved with the past several months.

And most recently, our son Charles was born. He was born 7 weeks early, so he had to stay in the NICU at the hospital for 4 weeks. And then nearly 4 weeks ago, we were able to bring him home. Just this week he passed his due date and is no longer premature status. And he’s gaining weight and eating well.

Praise God for carrying us through such a busy time & giving us strength in what He has for us each day!

Cramming Seminary Well

A couple days ago I did a guest blog post on the website Servants of Grace.

The article is titled ‘Cramming Seminary Well’. You can view the article here.

 

Or you can read the article here:

Certainly only through the Lord’s strength and grace to me, during one whole school year on-campus at Southern Seminary, I took a whopping 61 credit hours of class! How is this possible?

Still, now, I have no idea how all that happened. God’s mercy pulled me through.

During my first six months at Southern Seminary, I crammed seminary very poorly, which I go into detail more in an article on Desiring God. The first six months at Southern were one of the hardest periods in my life, which seemed like it would never end. But the second half of the school year, the Lord graciously guided me on how to cram seminary better. I didn’t slow down my course pace at any point but actually did better in my classes while still taking a huge load.

So why did I need to “cram” seminary at all in the first place? Before going to Louisville, KY for the ’13-’14 school year, we’d only planned to stay one year as a so-called seminary “break” from serving in China. I’d done some classes online beforehand and planned to take a light load at Southern for that year since I was doing a shorter Master’s degree [only 48 credit hours]. But during the summer before moving to Southern, I changed my mind and decided to do the M.DIV [94 total credit hours – usually spanning 3 or more years] instead of the M.A., so I knew I needed to cram tons of classes into that one year on-campus at Southern.

There were many painful points throughout the “cramming,” but here are some very valuable tips I learned along the way on how to “cram” better:

1) It’s important to take breaks in your life. Initially, I was studying Monday through Sunday, seven days a week, from 7 am – 10 pm each day. Don’t do that. You’ll just beat yourself to the ground. Thankfully I eventually adjusted from that brutal schedule to a much more manageable one – 7 am–5 pm, only Monday through Friday. I stopped studying at all on weekends or on weeknights. Taking rests is a way we refresh ourselves. If we don’t have such time for rest, we are constantly consumed by whatever we’re doing all the time, whether it’s schoolwork or work or something else. That means that thing becomes much greater to us than God, family, friends or our church.

I found that the most efficient studying for me was when I took regular breaks in my life. Even though I was studying much less than previously, I got as good of grades as before, although I was spending 15 or so fewer hours each week on schoolwork. A good practice we started doing is setting aside Saturdays as Family Days. We’d have a full, undistracted day together as a family, going out to parks or other places in the city. Even for the single folks, it’s good to have a few long breaks each week, to be doing something else than what you do all week.

2) On your holidays, be intentional not to study if possible. Take a small trip out of the city, or do something special with family or friends. Even if you decide to study during the break, make sure that you have as many days as you can in a row without any studies. When I studied at Southern, I didn’t have too long of a break in between the Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer terms. But even then, it’s good to take a few days off completely from schoolwork, and longer if possible.

3) Don’t try to work ahead significantly. I found that trying to do reading too far ahead of time doesn’t work out well. By the time I have that class a few weeks later, I will have forgotten most of what I tried to read in advance. Then I have to reread everything I already read. Or I end up failing a quiz about the material because I didn’t remember anything about it. And certainly, don’t try to begin coursework in one semester for a class in another semester. It was helpful for me not to have any of my coursework overlap from one semester to another semester. Have a clear end to one semester, take a break for as long as you can, and then begin the next semester.

4) Learn to speed-read. At least at Southern Seminary, Professors and Seminary Department heads themselves told us not to read every word of every page. This can save you tons of time. This is not valuable for just seminary, but just life in general. I found this especially true when I engaged in speed-reading as I was able to retain a much better idea long-term about the main things from the book. If you read every word meticulously, you may lose sight of the main points of the book. But there may be a few books that are of particular importance to you that you can read slower. These should be the exception, not the norm.

5) Plan your classes well. Do your best always to monitor which classes are offered when. Be on the ball with your classes. I’d suggest making an Excel chart showing all your classes for your degree, and then mark a checkmark under the semester you took that class. If you want to cram lots of courses into a short period, you have to each semester prioritize which classes are required that you need to take. And then think about electives you want to take if you’ve still got time in your schedule. You don’t want to be in a situation where you realize you need a class, but you didn’t take it when it was offered the year or two earlier, and it won’t be offered again before you had hoped to graduate. This can unnecessarily extend your seminary stay an extra semester.

6) Physical exercise. Make sure to have some regular physical exercise. This could be running a few times a week, or playing basketball, or swimming. It could be something as easy as a 20-minute daily pushups and sit-ups workout in your home. Even when the weather may be too cold to exercise outside, still have some way to continue exercising regularly [more than once a week] throughout the year. This will help your mind work better, it’ll also give you more energy, you’ll be able to sleep better, and you will physically be healthier and in better shape.

A couple of things to note in conclusion. During the year on-campus in Louisville, I didn’t have any job. My wife worked full-time, and my mother-in-law watched our daughter full-time. For those of you who work at all, it may be a different dynamic for you. But still many of these main principles still apply.

Also, many of these principles would not be useful just for seminary students, but also a high school or college student.

Working Hard for Christ in School or in Work

Originally in my December 13th, 2004 Journal [age 22, senior year studying engineering at Oklahoma St. Univ.]

The main lesson I learned this semester is in regards to labor. Many Christians equate their religion with not worrying, & and thus, not working hard. This was my state last semester & early this semester. I learned that no one will respect anything I say if I don’t do my best at everything I do. Then I am a poor witness. Jesus must be reflected in every aspect of my life. Were Jesus or Paul slackers because they had a ‘carefree attitude’, not concerned with the worries of this world? Heck no! If anything, they worked harder than others in everything they did. It has been a huge lesson for me this semester & I am incredibly thankful.

Going to Chinese Church

Now we’ve been living in Deerfield, IL for about three months. I’m here studying my PhD in intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School [TEDS].

These first few months we’ve been going to a Chinese church nearby. We are the only foreigners at the church who go to the Mandarin church service and Sunday school, and a Mandarin small group. We thought going to a Chinese church being in the Chinese service we’d be able to learn more about Chinese believers. Our Chinese would continue to improve during our planned couple years in the U.S., before Lord willing returning to NW China. We’d continue to be around Chinese people and be continued to their culture. All these benefits would also be for our daughter, who was born in NW China & went to a Chinese kindergarten last year in our city in NW China.

But now this week my wife & I have decided to find an English-speaking church around here. Though we’ve enjoyed going to the Chinese church, it seems as though it’s been more challenging than we expected to go to a church that is all in our second language. Our Chinese is good enough to converse with minimal difficulties, read the Chinese Bible, or watch Chinese movies with Chinese subtitles. But doing everything at church in only Chinese has been incredibly hard. We can understand most or some of the sermons’ content. But as far as understanding it in a deeper way that is necessary for impacting us spiritually, it’s very hard. When we’re at Sunday school or small group, we can understand most of what people are talking about. But in that setting, it’s hard for us to actively play a part in the study, to articulate in Chinese what we want to say it when we want to say it.

Now I can relate to all the people out there who go to English churches when English isn’t their first language. I can understand such challenges. Previously I would’ve thought that the ideal church would be one where it’s a mixture of Asians, Africans, Latinos, and Europeans all going to the same church together. But now I can understand why there are ‘Chinese churches’ or ‘Korean churches’ or ‘Polish churches’. Even for those who’ve been in the U.S. for a long time, for those people it’s not just a matter of being nationalistic and only wanting to be with people from their country. Even for those who’ve lived here a long time, there’s nothing that can compare to doing church in that person’s heart language, rather than a second language.

So now we’re gonna look for an English-speaking church.

Please pray for us in this, that very soon we’d be settled in at a church here that we can really invest heart and soul into.

Joyfully Accepting Confiscation of Property

Originally in my September 22, 2014 Journal [written while living in NW China]:

Yesterday morning I realized that my watch in the living room had disappeared during the night. When I saw that all my cash was taken out of my wallet, we concluded that a thief had broken in. I reported to the gate guy, who called the police, who came by around 9:15 am. We saw footprints on the window ledge & up the water pipe, [which the thief had used to climb up to our second floor apartment]. Thankful he didn’t take more.

I sought to ‘joyfully accept the confiscation of our property’, like Hebrews 10:34.

[Full verse: “You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions”]

Back into Running

In the past month I’ve started to get back into running again.

In 8th grade I was on the cross country team. And while I was a freshman in college, I would go on very long 6, 8, or 10 mile runs during the summer.

But since then, I’ve really done no kind of long-distance running, including my ten years living in China.

But at the end of last semester we had a physical challenge among our team’s guys. I ran a very embarrassing and out-of-shape 18-minute 2 miles.

After that, I’ve vowed to improve on that for our spring physical challenge.

So beginning in March I’m trying to run about 30 or 40 miles per month. I keep track on Nike+ and our guy teammates have monthly competitions.

At first my body hurt like crazy, but now it’s slowly getting used to it.

And I’m really enjoying running again. I’ve been running right along the Yellow River most of the time. Quite relaxing.

Certainly I’ve seen how much regular physical exercise can help or hurt us in the ministry. If we have none, our bodies will often break down, we’ll be tired always & our bellies will grow. But if we have regular exercise, our bodies stay healthy, we have more energy to serve Him, & we can have a stronger body.

Busy Week

We just moved on the high school campus yesterday. Lots of helpers, so it went smoothly. Good bonding with believers & nonbelievers through working together for a common cause.

We contacted a private school near us that will welcome our 3 year old daughter for school next year.

I preached this morning at our church on Colossians 2:6-15.

My wife’s mom & sis get here tonight.

I had a late night Skype session Wed. night with Dr. Bridger to  finish my SBTS seminary work for good.

It’s been quite a packed week.

The Lord has sustained [Lamentations 3:22-24]

Regular Exercise

The last few weeks I started a daily workout routine.

I was too out of shape, felt on the brink of getting sick, and just got tired easily.

So I started early each morning having a simple 20 minute workout — two sets of pushups, two sets of sit-ups. I keep track of how many I do each day, so I can gradually increase the reps.

Every time I’m regularly exercising I wonder how I could ever not do that, as I feel much better, I’m physically much stronger, & I don’t get sick.

The problem is, once I stop exercising for whatever reason, I have a really tough time getting back on track, which can last for months or years.

Paul says, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight light a man beating the air. No I beat my body and make it my slave” (1 Cor. 9:26)