I’m nearly done with the second day of my final week at Otto Nemenz International. I have worked here for over three years, and it has been life-giving to work for a company committed to a strong foundation of business ethics. My previous employer made things up as he went along. No one could pin him down regardless of the situation. He prized his neck too much. Of course, this meant that his employees ended up skewered by his clients. Boy, do I remember those days all too well. If my former job was a harsh, wasteland, then my time at Otto Nemenz has been like an oasis: fresh water, cool breeze, plenty of food, and shade. In fact, what could bring such a wonderful time to an end?
In my case, I start classes at Talbot School of Theology next week. Three weeks ago, I sat down with my boss regarding my upcoming, Fall schedule. There was no wiggle room available. It was either job or school. I expressed to my boss that my Fall plans were set in stone. My last day would be Friday, August 21. It felt weird at first to know that this was it. In my heart, I knew that this day loomed on the horizon. When I started Otto Nemenz three years ago, I had a strong impression that this job would not be permanent. It did not take me long to excel, and earn a pay raise by my sixth month; however, something shifted inside of me during that time. This took place as I met up with my trusted friend and mentor, Dio Yang.
I have known Dio for ten years. We met while attending the Westside Vineyard together between 2005 and 2011. Dio lead the Men’s Ministry at the church in addition to leading a weekly bible study. I respected his leadership and admired his knowledge, wisdom, and understanding about the Bible and doctrine. Around 2011, Dio stepped down from both of his roles at the Vineyard while retiring from his architecture business. I had moved onto to another Vineyard church, but I kept in touch with him. One day Dio asked me if I would be interested in meeting up with him every other Saturday to pray, talk about life, and study the bible together. I said yes.
There wasn’t anything strictly formal per se about our time together. Dio and I had a loose structure of talking about current struggles, praying for one another, and digging into God’s word for knowledge and wisdom for our lives. He showed me a few methods for studying the Bible. One of those I utilize as my bread and butter approach; although, I recognize the importance about using a different bible study method to keep things fresh. Whenever Dio and I completed a word study or a book study, he tasked me with writing a 2-3 page paper on what I learned and how it applied to my life. One day a light went on inside of me as I realized that I loved reading, studying, and writing about the Bible. I recall telling him that I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life.
If my memory serves me right, I remember a brief discussion with Dio about seminary in 2012. He recommended Talbot unequivocally over and against Fuller Theological Seminary and The Master’s Seminary. I considered the latter early in my search, but I found them a little too strident and cold in their communication. Fuller was a vague blip on the radar screen, but their embrace of theological liberalism is spiritually dangerous. Why spend three years and thousands of dollars listening to professors undermine God and his word if I will not tolerate that within a local church? Southern Seminary was the other serious contender, but they are in Louisville, Kentucky. At this time, my wife and I do not see the Lord leading us away from California.
What all of this means is that the Lord has lead me to this current place. It is a place that has both an ending and a beginning. In some sense, my job ends, but it also begins in a new way. The Lord used Dio to instill in me the spiritual discipline of personal, Bible study and its application to my life. Out of that simple activity grew a strong passion for shepherding others in the same way whether in a seminary or church setting or both. I am the Lord’s vessel. He has outfitted me a certain way for his kingdom, which excites me to no end. There is a weight in responding to God’s call to preach and teach his word. It sobers me. I will end this post with two verses, which keep ringing in my ears:
“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6, ESV)
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1, ESV)