Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Blessings of Asbury Part III: Friendship

The most important blessing of Asbury Theological Seminary has been for me friendship. We have debated important issues, we have prayed for one another, we have confessed our sins to one another and we have encouraged one another toward holiness. The most transformative events that happened at Asbury for me, happened in Grice Hall. Those events were the Bible study group meetings, they were the conversations and debates that went into the morning hours, they were the times of heartfelt prayer and of crying out, "why God?" There are too many people who have blessed me greatly at Asbury to talk about but there are two who rise above the others. Those two are Blake Brodien and Ben Douglass.

I met Blake the first night I was at Asbury. We played poker and I remember not liking him much. Somehow we ended up becoming friends. We had Method & Praxis of Theology together and we realized how different we were from each other. Blake had grown up in an evangelical Christian home in the Bible belt. I grew up going to a liberal "church" where the gospel was not preached in the least-churched region of the country. Our diverse backgrounds has often made communication difficult. Our relationship made me realize that many people from "red state" regions underestimate the evils of liberal theology. It also has made me realize that right-wing fundamentalism can be just as bad. Blake could see during that first year of seminary that I was bitter. I was bitter about the liberalism that had withheld Christ from me and the havoc that it wreacked in my life. Blake told me that I needed to overcome that bitterness many times but I did not listen. It took hearing a word of prophecy, almost verbatim what Blake had been saying, from a pentecostal preacher the summer after that year of seminary for God to get my attention. I still have bitterness but now I'm aware of its presence and that it's something God wants me to be free of. Blake also got me through a battle with depression that first year. It was one of the toughest times in my life but Blake was always there to remind me of who God is and to pray for me. Our friendship has only deepened during our second year of seminary and I look forward to lifetime of being a blessing to one another. Blake showed me what true Christian compassion is. Being doctrinally correct and pursuing holiness are two of my most important values. Blake has taught me to add compassion to both my battle for good doctrine and my quest for holiness. Blake also has shown me a great trust in God that I can only hope someday to possess.

I didn't hit it off with Ben as fast as I had with Blake. The first time I really made a connection with Ben was when I was complaining about the problems of liberalism not far into my first year at Asbury. In Ben I found someone who was as aware as I was of the horrendous nature of theological liberalism. This realization led to many discussions about theology. Eventually we formed a "Barnabas Group" of which Blake was also a member along with two other guys. A Barnabas Group is an accountability group which combines Bible study, prayer and confession of sin along with a commitment to five disciplines. The disciplines are commitment to a certain amount of time in Scripture and prayer daily, fasting, tithing, church attendance and Scripture memorization. Our Barnabas group and more specifically my relationship with Ben has been the greatest catalyst in my life for greater holiness. I have been freed from sinful inclinations that I didn't even realize I struggled with and that I certainly never thought I would be free of. Ben has also made me more aware of the spiritual battle we are in. A big part of my growth at Asbury has come from being aware of this battle and knowing that the most important thing for a Christian to do in fighting the forces of darkness is to strive for holiness. This striving for holiness must always be built upon a faithful prayer life and time spent in the word. Ben has also showed to me how joyful and exciting a life can be where a person is seeking holiness. So often holiness is seen as boring or opposed to having fun. Through Ben I have come to see that in seeking holiness there will be many sacrifices and struggles but that He whom we are seeking to obey is so much greater than anything we might have to leave behind in our quest. Jesus says that we must deny ourselves to follow Him. Many Christians today seem not to want to hear this. Ben embraces Christian self-denial whole-heartedly and he has helped me to also.

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