Why Seminary?

I answered the call to preach in my early teenage years. I must define what I mean by “call”. God does not always reveal an individual’s calling in the same manner as mine was revealed. The short version of the story goes like this:

When I was a teenager at youth camp I listened to a powerful sermon from the camp evangelist. I don’t remember much of his sermon, but I do remember one thing he said. “Some of you need to bring Jesus your blank sheet of paper and allow him to write on the lines what he would have you to do.” In that moment I knew God was calling me to some kind of full-time ministry, even though I didn’t really understand that at the time.

You should know that I served in a nursing home ministry shortly after I became redeemed. My first ministry experience was leading devotionals at the local nursing home on Sunday mornings. I never knew those early Sunday mornings would contribute to my eventual calling to ministry.

After I answered the call to ministry I began to be more involved in church. Landmark Free Will Baptist Church in Hamilton, Alabama. Each month the fourth Sunday night was deemed youth night. The youth pastor and youth conducted the entire service. My responsibility was to bring the message. (Thank you Landmark for putting up with all those bad sermons!) That experience played a key role in my current ministry.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. After graduation I decided that I would attend Free Will Baptist Bible College, which was renamed to Welch College in 2012. Some well meaning Christians asked me the following question, “If God called you to ministry, why are you going to school? Isn’t God’s call all you need?”

Well, I’m working on a master’s degree in preaching and I still answer this question on a regular basis. Sometimes I ask myself the very same question, “Why Seminary?” Here are some of my reflections on this question.

  1. God’s genuine calling on me is a result of his grace. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to young Timothy, “I thank God that he has counted me, the least of the apostles, worthy to proclaim the Good News.”
  2. Scripture can be understood and studied by all. School gives me tools to better interpret God’s word. I have learned so much about Bible study that I would not have otherwise learned.
  3. Many pastors have said to me, “I would love to have the opportunity you have been given to continue your theological studies.” I have been impacted greatly by faithful under-shepherds who never went to school, yet all of them have encouraged me to prepare for ministry rather than just jumping in. Theological training, whether through the academy, or through mentoring relationships is a necessity for pastors. How can pastors defend the flock if they do not know the Gospel themselves?
  4. Personal passion and commitment to the church. Shortly after my conversion I developed a deep love for the church-how it functions, what it represents, and it’s purpose in the world. Jesus loved the church so much he died for it. I love the church and desire to commit all my days to serving King Jesus and making disciples.
  5. Encouragement from others. So many have supported me throughout my academic journey. Many have told me, “Dustin, you can do this. You have the God-given ability.” God has blessed me with the ability to think and reason out my faith and I do not want His gift to be wasted.

I’m Not Saying…

  • Seminary is necessary for pastoral ministry. It is helpful though.
  • Uneducated pastor’s are ineffective in the Lord’s work. I think it’s amazing to see how the Holy Spirit works through normal people. God didn’t call the mighty of this world but the weak. This does not mean we shouldn’t try to better ourselves as we labor for King Jesus.
  • I want to spend the rest of my life in school.
  • I’m better than others because of my theological training.

Each day I am learning to value this season of preparation. Maybe sometime we can have a conversation about my journey, God’s work of grace in me, and why I love NOBTS.

Thank you Andy Stidham for giving me opportunities to preach when I was a teenager. Thank you Mark Collier for your pastor’s heart. Thank you Joe Tolbert for encouraging me to love Jesus and the mundane tasks of everyday ministry. Thank you Landmark FWB Church for supporting me through this journey. Thank you Winfield FWB for sending me out as a laborer of the Harvest. Thank you Jesus for calling me and equipping me for Kingdom work. I’m blessed to be seminary student.

 

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I’m Going to Cuba and Need Your Help

 

Hello everyone! It has been some time since my last post. I do apologize about that. It has been a great semester and as you can imagine it has also been extremely busy.

I have some exciting news to tell you, in case you haven’t heard. I have been approved to go on a short-term mission trip this summer to Cuba with Free Will Baptist International Missions. I’m excited about this trip! Our trip will be August 4-15th 2016.

In order for me to go, I need to raise prayer and financial support. Some of you might have received a support letter, either by email or mail. I have put this post together for those who haven’t heard about my trip.

I’m excited about this opportunity to serve and learn more about discipleship, missions, and youth ministry in Cuba. Please begin praying for me and the CMP team now!

Excerpts from my support letter

This August I will have an opportunity to serve on a short-term mission trip to Cuba. My team and I will be partnering with Cuban leaders at the annual youth conference. Many Cuban young people are very dedicated to the Lord. This annual youth camp is hosted by our Free Will Baptist Seminary in Pinar del Rio. Our theme for this camp is, “Renew your mind, guarding your heart”, based on Proverbs 4:23. I am excited about this important opportunity!

My first experience in Cuba was March 2014, where I served with a team from Welch College. God gave me a heart for the Cuban people. I experienced worship, evangelism, and the life of a missionary for ten days. My first trip to Cuba was life changing and I know my return trip will be as well!

Please join me in prayer for the Cuba CMP trip this August. In order to participate in this trip, I am asking for your prayer and financial support. I need to raise $2,100.00 by June 1 in order to go on this trip. There are a few ways you can support me financially:

  1. Log on to the International Missions website and give a tax deductible gift to my account using this link: http://www.fwbgo.com/student-missions/student-details/id,783/dustin-walters
  2. Mail a check to Free Will Baptist International Missions at P.O Box 5002 Antioch, TN 37011. In the memo line please write, “Dustin Walters, CMP”.

Your gift of any amount will be appreciated but if you can give in increments of $25, $50, or $100 amounts it will be especially helpful. Please respond soon if you intend on giving since I will need to raise these funds as soon as possible. 

Thank you for faithfully supporting me through prayer and finances! You have played an important role in my Christian walk and preparation for full-time vocational ministry. I thank God for your partnership in the Gospel! (Philippians 1:4-6)

If you’re interested in supporting me, please contact me at dustinwaltersfwb@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Choosing the Kingdom: Between Two Worlds

Every day we choose whether we will focus on Christ and his kingdom or on the temporary people, places, and events of this world. Sometimes we overemphasize one or the other in a single day. As Christians you and I must seek balance-we are to prioritize Christ and his kingdom, while not neglecting earthly responsibilities.

Luke 10:38-42 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. This is the New Testament passage I chose to write my first exegetical paper on, as a freshman at Welch College. I have preached sermons on this passage multiple times. God is continuing to use this passage to mold me into his image.

The Text

In this passage we read about two sisters who were uniquely a part of Jesus’ ministry. Martha and Mary were friends of Jesus and were sisters of Lazarus. (John 12) You are all likely familiar with the text, but let’s take a closer look.

38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Martha invited Jesus and his disciples into her home. We first consider her motive-why did she invite Jesus over for lunch? Was she simply being kind or was she in some way trying to impress Jesus? The latter option seems highly probable given the nature of her humanity. We don’t want to read into the text but it seems natural to question Martha’s motives.

Mary listened intently to Jesus’ teaching. This is one example of Jesus’ redefining culture. Culturally women were not permitted to sit at the feet of a teacher, especially a rabbi. Jesus did not stop Mary from listening to his teaching, though. While Martha was busy in the kitchen, her sister Mary simply sat at Jesus’ feet.

Martha asked Jesus to call her sister out. She was serving alone and wanted everyone to know it.

Do we ever serve simply to draw attention to ourselves? We don’t usually admit it, but in our pride we want everyone to know all the good deeds we do. Jesus reminds us that we should not do good deeds for the praise of man. 

Jesus did not scold Mary as Martha expected. He did not condemn Martha’s actions either. He simply said, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (good part=good portion in Greek, merida) Our deeds and service are important from a kingdom perspective but we must ensure that we balance service (earthly in nature) and reflection/mediation (spiritual in nature).

Some Dangers

It can be easy for us to read a passage like this and walk away with false interpretations. As Christians we do not advocate for a strict dichotomy between the material and spiritual world. We believe Christ is Lord of both. Michael Horton articulates it this way,

“But we need not choose between these two kingdoms. Citizens of both, we carry out our vocations in the church and the world in distinct ways through distinct means. We need not “Christianize” culture in order to appreciate it and participate in it with the gifts that God has given us as well as our non-Christian neighbors. Though called to be faithful in our callings until Christ returns, with Abraham, we are “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10, hcsb).”

We do not want to neglect earthly responsibilities, but we do want to prioritize the Kingdom. That seems to be Luke’s purpose in including the Mary/Martha narrative in his gospel.

We must make God’s Kingdom a priority.

You and I are a people of the Kingdom. We have been delivered from the Kingdom of darkness (even though we still feel its presence!) and have been transferred to the Kingdom of God through Christ. (Colossians 1:13-14) We must become a people who set our minds on thinks above, while not neglecting things below. (Colossians 3:1-2)

In some sense we are between two worlds. There is present aspect to Christ’s reign but there is also a “not yet” aspect. The whole creation does not willingly submit to his lordship. As we await Christ’s return and consumption of the Kingdom, let us not neglect earthly responsibilities such as homework, work, and getting tasks done, but let us also prioritize God’s kingdom.

Becoming Kingdom Minded: Some Practical Steps

  1. Prioritize God’s word, prayer, meditation, and discipleship.
  2. Intentionally pursue and develop relationships with others. (Some we will share the Gospel with and others we will encourage in their sanctification.)
  3. Be obedient to the task God has appointed. Whatever you do do all to God’s glory. Stop viewing your earthly responsibilities as a curse. (I’m preaching to myself as well.)
  4. Prayerfully ask Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit to build the kingdom. “Our Father in heaven..let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6)
  5. Seek community through local church and relationship building.

These are just a few thoughts on making God’s kingdom a priority. My prayer is that my life will be centered around Christ and his kingdom. Peter reminds us that while we are between two worlds there is significant reason to have hope-Christ is building his kingdom and we are given an opportunity to join him in Kingdom building.

11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13, NASB)

To my readers,

Thank you for reading my posts with patience and consistency. I hope to be posting with more regularity in the future but for now, I’ll just post when I can. Your support of my ministry is an encouragement to me!

Let It Be Said of Us

There she stands in ragged clothes and pleads for money. People pass her by. People ridicule and mock her for living on the streets. Very few passers by asked her about her story. They simply walked away in scorn. But you see, everyone has a story.

She was a single mother and victim of domestic abuse. She only wanted enough money to feed her children and pay for a cheap hotel room. She just wanted to get by. She just wanted to make it through another day. After she became the victim of domestic violence she became homeless. She reached out to her church and asked for help and didn’t get any. She reached out to her family as well but they responded similarly to the church.

Her life was characterized by brokenness. She just needed some help. She needed Christ to set her free from the chains of abuse, prostitution, and fear. Her story is real and must not be ignored.

My room mate and I met her outside our local Wal-Mart. We were simply returning a Red Box when God put her in our path. My room mate obeyed the Holy Spirit and began engaging S. in conversation and ministry. God appointed this encounter for sure. She was at her wits end and we were able to be messengers of grace.

She still needs your prayer. She needs your support. She needs your love. Most of all, she needs to see Christ in you.

Helpless people are all around us. It can be easy for us to look on the least of these with scorn because of our perception of them. Let it not be said that Christians do not genuinely love others. Let it not be said of us that we ignore God’s leading to help others.

Helping others requires action, not merely words. She had been attending a mega church in the city since 2008. When she tried to get out of her domestic violence situation she became homeless. She asked the church for help but was given none. My heart breaks for a church whose congregants can’t meet with the pastor because he’s too booked up. My heart breaks for a church who fails to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Let it be said of us as believers that we love others just as Christ loved us. (Mark 10:45, John 3:17) Let it be said of us that Christ shines through us.  Steve Fry has articulated this well in his song, “Let it be said of us”.

Let it be said of us
We were marked by forgiveness
We were known by our love
And delighted in meekness
We were ruled by his peace
Heeding unity’s call
Joined as one body
That Christ would be seen by all

Fellow Christians, it is our duty to reflect Christ to a broken world. Let us come before His throne pleading for mercy. Brothers and sisters let your light shine so others will see Jesus and glorify the father.

An Open Letter to Pine Level Free Will Baptist Church

Dear friends and family of Pine Level,

I wanted to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude for all you have done for me this summer. It has been a blessing developing friendships with you and preaching on Sunday evenings. You will always have a special place in my heart. We’ve shared moments of laughter as well as moments of serious conversation. I’m grateful for your example of godliness and love for the Lord Jesus.

Here are some things I have learned from you this summer. At Junior Camp I learned that even the smallest of minds can love and obey God’s word. I also learned that your pastor, brother Eric Brown, loves you dearly. We shared prayer needs on a weekly basis and it was encouraging for me to see your pastor praying for you. You have reminded me how important it is to laugh a little and not take myself too seriously. You have treated me as one of your own family members, welcomed me in, and have given me a place to serve this summer. You have shown me that you love me and care about me.

Thank you for welcoming me into your family. Please know that I am praying for you and the ongoing ministry of Pine Level Free Will Baptist Church. Thank you teenagers for inviting me to join you on your mission trip this summer. It was a blessing watching you serve and be he hands and feet of Christ. I covet your prayers as I begin studying at New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary. Thanks again for your investment in my life.

In Christ,

Dustin Walters

Intern, 2015

Living Palm Sunday Lives

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. You will recall the story of Jesus coming into the city and being greeted by people who cried out “Hosanna, Glory in the Highest.” Read it for yourself before you continue reading this post.

[8]  And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. [9]  Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:8-9 (NKJV)

Began what is known as Passion week, where Jesus had to endure the cross before he could be crowned King. He was the Suffering Servant but also the Sovereign King. He had to die so that you and I could enjoy fellowship with God. He came to set us free from sin’s curse. Glory to God in the Highest for His faithfulness to redeem that which is not worthy of redemption!

One of my professors began class this week by stating the following, “Strive to live Palm Sunday lives. Don’t recognize Jesus as a king in name only, but also in your life.” This statement changed the way I viewed my entire Monday. So many times I am guilty of ascribing glory to Jesus with my mouth, but choosing my own selfishness over His will for my life. Sometimes my life does not point to the goodness of King Jesus. Sometimes my life is characterized by merely going through the motions and not worshiping Him for who He is.

We all struggle with something, whether it be pride, jealously, or selfish ambition. We want to be the Sovereign over our little universe. All to often we forget that there is only one God and we are not Him.

I’ve been convicted and encouraged to live a life of worship. Truly we must bring glory to Jesus by the way in which we live our lives. We will stumble and fall, but our hearts must beat to the rhythm of the Kingdom. We must pursue Jesus and live a life of worship.

Hebrews 13:14-16 provides us with a most helpful explanation of the kind of worship we bring King Jesus.

[14]  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. [15]  Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. [16]  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:14-16 (NKJV)

Our worship becomes genuine when we love Jesus supremely, investing ourselves in others, and sharing the good we have received with our world.

Let’s live Palm Sunday lives.

Discovering Purpose: Why Your Life Matters

The mortality rate among human beings is 100%. Not  one of us can escape the reality of death.(Hebrews 9:27) That might be news to you, but we will all one day die. We should treat our bodies with great care, but even the fittest among the human race will one day pass from this life. What then is our purpose as human beings? Is our mandate to enjoy life to the fullest extent or to fulfill a specific task? Is there even any mandate placed on humanity? Various worldviews have sought to present the above question, but only Christianity provides the most consistent answer.

The question of our purpose is really a philosophical question that begins with how we define prime reality. Prime reality can is the most true part of existence. Some people live in a “reality” which denies the existence of  the spiritual realm and focuses exclusively on those things that can be revealed through existential data. For us as Christians, prime reality is the infinite Holy God revealed in Jesus and the Scriptures. As believers, the most real part of our lives is the spiritual. We must however be careful not to separate the spiritual world and the physical world as Plato did. Aristotle understood that there was a specific union between the material and immaterial world. Sometimes Americans deny the existence of the spiritual altogether, which poses great problems. The spiritual realm enables us to define who we are as human beings and what our purpose is. It is through genuine spirituality that we have purpose and meaning in life.

The Meaning of Life According to Scripture

God created the universe and everything contained within space and time. He created our first parents Adam and Eve after His own image and likeness .(Genesis 1:26-27) God created and pronounced His creation as good. God created us to enjoy Him and worship Him forever. We were created with a purpose: to tend after the good earth as good stewards. We are told to be fruitful and multiply, thereby sharing God’s glory with His creation. Somewhere along the way we decided that our purpose was better “in our own eyes” than through the eyes of God.

Adam and Eve fell into that age old trap of deception, thinking that there was satisfaction under the sun. They partook of the forbidden fruit believing that life would be better for them. Satan had our first parents convinced that they could be satisfied by the pleasures of this world. In reality, they already had the greatest pleasure knowable to man. They were privileged to walk with God in Shalom peace prior to their choice to sin. The forbidden fruit will never satisfy us. It will only leave us thirsty for more. There is a great thirst within each of us, but we are only satisfied when we rest in the Sovereign Lord.

The writer of Ecclesiastes picked up on this theme. This was a person who had tasted the fleeting pleasures of this world, like sex, entertainment, pleasure, wisdom, and wealth. If you read Ecclesiastes you will notice one recurring phrase. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. In other words, all things are like chasing the wind. They seem to have no purpose.

As you come to the final chapter of Ecclesiastes you notice a unique change in the writer’s tone. He reminds his audience to “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) His point was that life doesn’t get any better with age. Hardships don’t disappear and satisfaction with things under the sun significantly decreases. So what should we do as hearers? Should we become Nihilists and conclude that nothing at all has purpose, even human life?

I think not. We should pay close attention to Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

[13]  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [14]  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, ESV)

 So life is not meaningless. With God life takes on new meaning and purpose. We do have a mandate, which is really an invitation to know God and enjoy Him forever. We have purpose and meaning because we were created in the image of God. We were created to have dominion over the earth and manage it as good stewards. (Check out this sermon on Psalm 8 by Mr. Matthew McAffee on 02/10/15)  We will all stand before God in judgment for every deed, whether good or evil.

The purpose of life is to love God supremely and enjoy Him forever. This is the whole duty of man. Think of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 6:4-6 or Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with your entire being.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the whole duty of man is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Discovering God’s Purpose for You

You might find yourself agreeing with me that your true purpose is found in a covenant relationship with God, but you are just not sure what that looks like or how to apply it to your life.  If you are to discover God’s purpose for your life you must:

1.) Realize that He is the Source of all Life. He is your creator, redeemer, and sustainer. When you realize that your life is not your own and that you were bought with a price you can begin to have purpose and meaning in your life.

2.) Get involved in a local church community that loves Jesus and you. This should be a post of its own and maybe it will someday, but your greatest value as an individual is seen in the context of community. You were not called to do life on your own, but with other believers. Doing life together is the way God intended for us to live. (Please for the love of all that is good, read Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together.)

3.) Rely on the wonderful grace of Jesus to lay aside idols. Sometimes we find our purpose in our careers, relationships, or venues of entertainment, but those things are merely empty wells that will leave us thirsty. (John 4, Isaiah 55) Those things provide only temporary pleasure. To find ultimate satisfaction you must look beyond the sun because things under the sun leave us wanting.

4.) Intentionally center your life on Jesus and the Scriptures by constantly communing with Him through prayer and Bible reading. (Colossians 3:1-2) As you come to Him in brokenness, you will find new purpose and meaning for even the most mundane tasks. If your life is Christ-centered and Biblically rooted you will be better at whatever it is that God has given you to do.

Let us hear the conclusion of the matter

You may feel like your life doesn’t matter or that it doesn’t have purpose. I’m hear to be a messenger of good news. Your life does have purpose and meaning. You were created to worship and enjoy the Sovereign King of the universe. No matter how old or young you are you have purpose. Your purpose is to love, worship, and obey the Lord. God has created you in His rational image and according to His likeness. I’m amazed that the Sovereign Lord has chosen to make His dwelling among us. With the Psalmist I stand in awe of my renewed purpose. Who is man that you are mindful of him? Or the son of man that you care for Him? O Lord Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8: 4,9)