New World Religions Class Starting

Wat Arun, BangkokI’ll be starting one of my favorite teaching series next month: World Religions.  Here are the details.

Where: Lakeside Christian Church, Lakeside Park, KY (directions)
Dates: March 3 through May 5 (no class March 24 or April 28)
Time: 6:30pm to 8pm

We’ll be covering the history, beliefs, and practices of major world religions and new religious movements, including:

  • Christianity
  • Judaism
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Mormonism
  • Wicca
  • Scientology

…with a few more thrown in just to be safe. The class will include time for discussion and coverage of the current state of each religion in the world and the U.S.

I hope you can make it!

Photo: Buddhist Temple in Bangkok, Thailand, by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

ESN Makes the News!

The good work of my InterVarsity colleague (and fellow ESN blogger) Tom Grosh has been recognized by his local paper. Tom is hosting an Emerging Scholars Network event later this month, “The Sociology of Faith,” featuring Christian college professor Donald Kraybill of Elizabethtown College. Kraybill will draw upon his academic expertise as a scholar of Amish culture, as well as his personal experiences, in discussing the impact of Christian faith on one’s work and study.

“Each academic discipline raises different questions for (Christians who are involved in those disciplines),” he explained. “I’ll be talking about some of the issues I’ve struggled with as a Christian and as a sociologist (and about) the ways that I, as a Christian, can teach sociology.” He added that he will focus on ways that individuals can work through issues such as the ones he experienced.

Pray for Tom as he finishes organizing this event. Pray, too, for the students, faculty, and church members who will attend the event and for Donald Kraybill as he prepares his talk.

Also, read Tom’s latest post on the ESN blog, What are you picking up for Lent? We’re used to the idea of giving up something to grow closer to God, whether for Lent or some other reason, but what about adding something to our lives?

Two Quick Updates

Just a quick update, one ministry-related and one for blog housekeeping.

  1. Pray for my travel next weekend to the CCO Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh. I’m visiting this highly-recommended student conference to see if ESN might be able to partner with CCO in some way.
  2. I’ve added a new feature to my website that will import my Emerging Scholars Blog posts into this blog. I’m also experimenting with adding my new Tumblr feed to my blog for quick asides and commentary – though that be unnecessary, since Tumblr is supposed to send updates to my Twitter account automatically, and that feed already shows up in my sidebar. You should notice an increased number of posts from the blog – I’ll see if there is a way for you to subscribe only to my “old school” posts.

Seeing the Fruit of ESN

My work with the Emerging Scholars Network helps students become professors. This process takes years, sometimes more than a decade, so it is rare to see short-term results. Our work is more like a grape vine than a summer vegetable garden. Grape vines take far more investment, preparation, and patience than tomato vines, but grape vines will produce fruit for an entire generation. (The average grape vine lives for 25 years. Here’s a story about a grape vine that has been growing for over 400 years!)

Just this week, I received an email from a young woman named Heather[*]. Three years ago, she attended Urbana, InterVarsity’s triennial student missions conference, and came to a seminar I gave called “Serving Christ as a Professor.” She had been involved with InterVarsity as an undergraduate, and, at the time, she was a PhD student at a major research university. Though she didn’t tell me at the time, she was in the process of deciding whether to pursue a career as a professor.

Urbana confirmed her decision. Today, she’s a first-year professor at one of the famous “Public Ivies” – public universities that give students an Ivy League-quality education. She’s become involved with a community of Christian faculty that InterVarsity sponsors on her campus, and her research and teaching are influencing the next generation of our nation’s leaders.

Why was she emailing me? She’s looking for a mentor to help her in the next stage of her life and career. Heather is coming to Urbana again this year, and I’m working on finding just the right faculty member for her to meet with.

It’s so exciting to see God work through so many people over so many years. I’m sure my ESN seminar was just one of several factors that influenced Heather, but I know that ESN gave her the message that God honors the work of Christian faculty members.

I will present this same seminar — “Serving Christ as a Professor” — at this year’s Urbana. In fact, it will be part of a special series of seminars called “In the Workplace and in the Academy.” This is the first time that Urbana has devoted a seminar series to missions in these important arenas. Who knows how many future professors, businesspeople, and Christian leaders will hear God’s call in these seminars?

Prayer Requests

  • Praise God for his work in Heather’s life!
  • Pray that God will be bring me the right person to help Heather in this new stage of her life.
  • Pray for my seminar, that God will bring the right students to hear my message and that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words to speak into their lives.
  • Pray for future opportunities to work with Heather. Her research deals directly with issues that affect ESN, and her past and present universities are schools where ESN hopes to have an impact.

[*]I’ve changed her name to protect her identity. Some university departments are friendlier to Christians than others.

Advent Devotional – 2009

I delivered this devotional at the Christian Marketplace Network luncheon on Friday, December 11, 2009.

We say we’re in the Christmas season, but for most Christians around the world, Christmas hasn’t started yet. This is the Advent season, when we prepare for Christmas. The word “advent” means “the coming of something.” Specifically, we look for the coming of two events.

First, we go back in time and look forward to the birth of the Messiah. Israel waited centuries for the Messiah, while Mary awaited the Messiah’s birth at any moment. Biblical scholars tell us that Jesus was probably born in the spring, not in December, but can’t imagine Mary in this final month of pregnancy? She was physically ready for Jesus’s birth. More importantly, she was spiritually ready for the Messiah to save Israel.

Secondly, Advent also looks forward to the second coming. We live in a time of “already, but not yet” – Jesus has already died for our sins and risen to give us new life, but we have not yet seen God’s kingdom established on earth.

December is a hard month. We’re supposed to be celebrating; at the same time, we can’t help but think about our loved ones who aren’t with us this year, about the people in our community who don’t have enough food or money, about people around the world who lack basic necessities. We are singing great Christmas songs along with Star 93.3. At the same time, we are groaning prayers of hope.

The prophet Isaiah knew this paradox very well. For years, he had warned Judah that their sins were going to lead to destruction. When that destruction was almost upon them, though, God gave Isaiah a message of hope that we still hear today. In Chapter 40 ,Isaiah delivers the words that we know so well from the ministry of John the Baptist, announcing the arrival of the Messiah.

    A voice cries,
    â€œIn the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
        make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
    Every valley shall be lifted up,
        and every mountain and hill made low;
    the uneven ground shall become level,
        and the rough places plain.
    And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
        and all flesh shall see it together,
        for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

We see the glory of the Lord revealed in the infant Jesus, and we await the glory of the Lord to be revealed in full when Jesus returns. And so, this Christmas we pray, with Israel and the early church, “Come, Lord.”