Over this past weekend, I had the opportunity to praise God for his impact on my life, and on the lives of so many others, through Bethlehem College & Seminary (BCS).
When Dr. Tomlinson, the president of BCS asked me to speak at the Decennial Convocation for BCS, I was happy to say yes because I am profoundly thankful to God for this school. I love that place. I love walking into the building. On Wednesdays this semester I have the privilege of teaching a class there. I am genuinely excited to get into my truck on Wednesday mornings at 5:30am and drive into downtown Minneapolis and engage with students for a couple of hours. And I so enjoy being part of the school precisely because it has had a disproportionate impact on my life. And I am eager to see the school impact others.
That phrase, disproportionate impact, is popular around BCS. I’ve heard Dr. Tomlinson use the phrase on numerous occasions. It means simply that though this school is intentionally small, it has an impact that outpaces its size. BCS may not boast the number of graduates of other institutions, but by God’s grace, the men and women who are being formed there are making significant differences for the cause of Christ, literally around the world.
And this idea of disproportionate impact is certainly true in my own life: I was enrolled as a student for only four years. Yet, those four years have had a massive impact on who I am today. I spent twelve years in the Military. I spent time at the University of Kentucky. I even spent a decade pursuing an undergraduate degree at Boyce College. Yet, more so than any other institution, God used BCS to shape me in profound ways.
Now, I could focus on a lot of ways God has used the school to shape me, but I want to hone in on two major ideas, or two ideas combined into one. That is, God has used BCS to help me put my head and heart together; that is, God used my four years of study at BCS to teach me how to think critically and feel deeply; to pursue a rigorous life of the mind and give full vent to my affections for Jesus for my own good, the joy of all peoples, and the fame of his name.
Head & Heart
Abstract ideas at first—at first, this idea of putting head and heart together was an abstract idea to me. Pursuing a rigorous life of the mind and giving vent to my affections, are ideas that I thought were at odds (either you’re a thinker or feeler…I was not the latter!). And the first person to tell me the head and heart were not at odds, that they were not enemies, was Pastor John, or if you prefer, Chancellor Piper.
Through his writings, conferences, and his sermons, God used Pastor John to challenge me to use both my head and my heart. To think. To feel. And to see thinking and feeling in service to one another. But I only heard about these ideas. I only read about them. I had not experienced this in my own life.
Flesh on the bones—but then, in 2012, I had the chance to move to Minneapolis and study at BCS. In the context of this school, I was surrounded by pastors, professors, and people in the pews of Bethlehem Baptist Church, which showed me how to live out what I had only read about.
Putting the head and heart together, then:
HEAD: You see, at this school, your mind is challenged. You have to read carefully. You have to speak thoughtfully. And you are forced to write precisely.
HEART: but in the challenge to think critically, you’re never meant to simply gain intellectual weight. We don’t focus on the mind to the neglect of your heart. Yes, think carefully AND feel deeply. Learn to say with the Psalmist, “as I mused, the fires burned.”
So, before you dive into Hebrew grammar, John Beckman leads you to sing the glories of God. While you give yourself to study, you still gather with the church, and alongside your classmates and your professors, to pour out your heart to King Jesus. You think and feel.
In short, what God first taught me through Pastor John was to put my head and my heart together. Then, by his grace, God used BCS to help me see what this looked like in the life of his saints. And as I saw this, it began to take root in my own life as God used this school to help me think more carefully and more precisely about his Word and this world. And he used this school to help me learn how to give proper vent to my affections.
Praise God for How He Has Used and Is Using BCS
At the end of the day, what I praise God for the most, what is most important, is that God has used BCS to teach me more about what it means to love Christ more than I love anyone or anything else, and what it means to enjoy Christ more than I enjoy anyone or anything else.
So, I am thankful to God for BCS and give him all the glory.