The Near (and Far) Future

School is back in session! We are just wrapping up the first week of Fall Semester at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College (UCBA), and I am happy to say that things are going pretty well so far! It’s been a while since I’ve been in the classroom (since last December, in fact). So, I’m finding that I need to re-acquaint myself with the “feel” of engaging with students in the classroom. Two sections of Applied Calc and two sections of Intro to Discrete Math are giving me plenty of opportunities to do so 🙂

What else (other than teaching) comes with the approach of Autumn?  Well, for one, I’m planning to participate in a Cultural Diversity Faculty Learning Community at UCBA. Now, the word “diversity” can mean a lot of different things, depending on who you ask. In this case the emphasis is being placed on how an awareness of cultural diversity can enhance the manner in which we help our students learn. I am hoping this will be especially relevant to my efforts to teach math. Many of my students are intimidated or downright frightened by the “culture” of mathematics. If I can learn ways of bridging this “culture gap,” then I think participation in this FLC will have been worthwhile. We’ll see how it goes. I have discussed the FLC with some trusted colleagues who participated last year, and they encouraged me to try it out…

In addition to the above plans, I am also intending to co-lead a Bible study through the book of Ephesians alongside Tim Harris, another elder at Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church. After I led a Bible study through the Epistle of James over the summer (see this post for some brief thoughts about that study, and this post for an overview of James), several people were asking when the next study would be held. In order to make such an effort possible for me during the school year, Tim and I decided to share the workload. I am praying that God will bless this study. We want to help people understand God’s word in its original context, and then to help them understand how to derive and apply relevant principles from God’s word in our lives today. A key passage that helped motivated our choice to study the book of Ephesians is found in chapter 2, verses 8-10.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

I find this to be a particularly powerful summary of the Gospel. It emphasizes both the “free” nature of salvation and the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it teaches that good works follow a true experience of salvation, but do not merit true salvation to any extent. How different Christianity is from religions such as Islam, Judaism, or Hinduism! (to only name a few). Despite the risk of oversimplifying things, I believe it is quite accurate to assert that all other religions teach that your salvation is, at least to some extent, earned by your performance of good works (however such “good works” may be defined), or at very least by your abstinence from “bad works.” Biblical Christianity teaches that salvation is a completely free gift from God motivated by his own love rather than by what we deserve. Furthermore, Christianity teaches that the transformative power of salvation subsequently produces positive moral change. Thus a Christian lifestyle is not motivated by a desire to “earn” good things from God. Rather, the Christian life is fueled by the fact that God has already given us unspeakably good gifts, including a completely new nature that is inclined to love rather than rebel against him. Put yet another way, my worship of God is not motivated by what I want God to do for me, but by what God has already done for me through the work of Christ. He has forgiven my sin at his own expense, justifying me through faith in Christ, and has imparted eternal life to my soul. How could I not respond with heartfelt worship and obedience? How could I not depend on him to supply my every need?

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