This past week has been a full and good one. Last Friday morning I boarded a flight from LAX to DFW, arriving after lunch and spending the afternoon with old TMC friends before leaving for a weekend camp with the junior high and high school students of Grace Bible Church in Grapevine. Although we were only there for 36 hours, I feel like I walked away from the weekend with a bunch of new friends. The students were welcoming and attentive, the small group atmosphere was conducive to relationships and not just teaching, and the staff were almost all TMC alumni I already knew (including Nate & Abby Gunter, Clint & Megan Ochoa, Scott Zeller, and Laura Trevett).
I spoke on “The Radical Words of Jesus,” and am hopeful that God will make the words of His Son resound in the hearts and minds of my young new friends as they continue to ponder and process the upside-down things that Jesus said throughout His life and ministry. Here’s what we talked about:
- Why You Should Listen to Jesus (Topical)
- The Pharisee & The Tax Collector: Jesus on Self-Righteousness (Luke 18:9-14)
- Full Surrender: Jesus on Excuses (Luke 9:57-62)
- Poor, Crippled, Lame, & Blind: Jesus on Ministry (Luke 14:12-14)
One of the reasons I love teaching high school students is that they haven’t necessarily closed all their mental boxes and refined all their life categories and nailed down their theological grids. They still have a strong capacity to see the truth and the world and the call of Christ in fresh ways. They haven’t settled down yet, which means that when they hear from Jesus what it means to truly follow Him, they don’t necessarily throw up the rationalizing walls and self-protective interpretations and jargonized applications that we adults have gotten accustomed to creating and maintaining. They tend to hear the words of Jesus in their natural and normal sense, which means they hear radical words with jagged edges. This is always encouraging to me. May their hearts grow even softer as they age.
After returning from the camp on Sunday afternoon, I met up with the Deans’ Staff (Deans and RD’s from the Student Life Department at TMC) at our Best Western in Benbrook. We were there as a staff to attend the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) conference in Ft. Worth beginning Monday night. Since we had 24 hours before the conference began, we immediately left the hotel to visit the site of the JFK assassination at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. We walked along Elm Street and talked to local conspiracy theorists, looked up at the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots at the motorcade below, saw the “Grassy Knoll” and the triple underpass where some are convinced another shooter was stationed, and toured The Sixth Floor Museum describing the life, era, presidency, and assassination of President Kennedy. It was very sobering to stand yards away from the street where an American president was assassinated, especially after seeing pictures, videos, and detailed explanations of his life and death. There is a lingering sadness.
From Dealey Plaza we walked to Sonny Bryan’s for a barbecue dinner with Todd & Kelli Bolen who have recently moved from Israel to Dallas so that Todd can pursue a Ph.D. in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. The meat was tremendous, the company was fun, and all the former IBEX’ers enjoyed catching up with Todd & Kelli. It’s special when you have a friend and teacher like Todd whose very presence is inspiring and encouraging because of how he lives, thinks, and teaches. I hope my life will someday be the same.
We spent the better part of Monday at the Texas State Fair, the largest state fair in the nation and home of the Cotton Bowl as well as the biggest ferris wheel in the nation. I picked up a free pack of new Skittles gum, watched a professional dog show (long-jumping, frisbee-catching, and pole-weaving), saw a massive professional in-process sand castle, toured baseball and science exhibits, took the “Million Dollar Test” which was actually a lead-in to a concise and accurate gospel presentation, watched human cannonball David Smith get fired 75 feet high over a 142 foot gap into a relatively small net, and ate an assortment of the obligatory fried foods like a fried peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, fried cookie dough, and fried Tornado Tater (I didn’t get to sample the fried Coke, fried cappuccino, fried Oreos, or fried Twinkies).
It was impressive and enjoyable to see human creativity at full tilt, especially since I enjoyed it with some of my best friends. I’ve said this before, but the pleasures of life and culture are far more pleasurable when you don’t live for them. I suppose I will become unavoidably more and more convinced of this the longer I live, to the extent that I grow closer and closer to the Lord and learn more and more how to enjoy His gifts the way He meant for them to be enjoyed.
After driving back to Ft. Worth on Monday afternoon, we attended the first two sessions of the conference. It ran from Monday night through Wednesday afternoon, featuring main speakers like Jay Adams, Mark Dever, Paul Tripp, and David Powlison along with a host of helpful seminar speakers. If there’s time in the next few days, I’ll share some of the significant things I learned.