Timothy Dwight, Yale president

I read last night about Timothy Dwight, who was president of Yale from 1795-1817. He was the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, the leading figure of the First Great Awakening and regarded as America’s greatest theologian.

He came to Yale at a time when many of the educated in American were being carried away by the influence of French Rationalism that had inspired the French Revolution.

Dwight knew how to do things. Check this out:

The first thing President Dwight did was to fire all faculty members espousing the French Rationalist point of view. Then, with the windows of Connecticut Hall thrown open and the sounds of spring mixing with the streams of sunlight coming through them, he started holding frank and open-ended discussions with the undergraduates. He encouraged the young men in his charge to speak their minds, and by his willingness to listen carefully to their side, with no recriminations for anything they would say, he elicited rare candor from them. But then, they were obligated to pay him the same courtesy, and he presented cogent, well-reasoned rebuttals of all the Rationalist arguments, following with strong appeals for life-changing Christianity, which, as President of the college and an ordained minister, it was his place to give…

If the hearts of his young listeners responded to this message, few made open professions of faith in these first years. Nevertheless, as his illustrious grandfather had before him, Dwight toiled on in the vineyard, never compromising, never flagging. And finally, in 1802, his efforts were rewarded. Like a thunderclap, revival fell upon Yale. In March the first new student confessed his faith in Christ as his Savior, and in April there was the second. By the end of that summer there were no less than fifty! And by the time the senior class was ready for graduation, half of them had committed their lives to Christ, and a third went on to careers in the ministry. Indeed, Dwight personally witnessed the formal conversion of half the student body. Dr. Heman Humphrey, later to become president of Amherst College, was a student at Yale, when the storm broke:

“It came with such power as had never been witnessed within those walls before.  It was in the Freshman year of my own class.  It was like a mighty rushing wind.  The whole college was shaken.  It seemed for a time as if the whole mass of students would press into the kingdom…It put a new face on the college.  It sent a thrill of joy and thanksgiving far and wide into the hearts of its friends who had been praying that the waters of salvation might be poured into the fountain from which so many streams were annually sent out…In the four preceding classes, only thirteen names of ministers stand, against sixty-nine in the next four years—nearly, if not quite all, of them brought in by the Great Revival.”

(From Sea to Shining Sea, Peter Marshall and David Manuel, p. 108-112)

Notice how he exercised his authority with grace.  As president, it was his job to shepherd the students.  He first took care of the wolves who were in the sheep pen.  But then he handled the students gently, listening to them and their ideas, and responding in grace with rebuttals and the claims of Christ.

I’m sure he was roundly criticized in the more liberal circles for firing the Rationalist professors.  I can hear it now, “What about academic freedom?!”  “Why is he forcing the whole college to adopt his narrow view?!”  But Dwight was playing for an audience of one.  He loved his savior and he loved the students that had been put under his care.  Well done, good and faithful servant.

How did I get here?

I came home from Embracing Life tonight full of the love of the Father, and I feel like He asked me to write this. I hope it ministers to you.  It’s a little embarrassing.  He must increase, I must decrease.

I’m not sure how I got here, but it’s wonderful.

I can remember often being embarrassed to pray in front of my wife, as if I was supposed to have all the answers or be able to solve all the problems.  I was afraid to seek God with her.  Maybe I wouldn’t do it right?  Maybe it would be awkward?  What if I didn’t pray as well as the pastor or other ‘spiritual’ people?  As I write, the Lord is reminding me of countless times when I had to make an intentional decision to step out of my embarrassment and do it anyway.  There were more failures than successes.  But I feel like each decision I made to step out in faith overcame a hundred times when I retreated into my fears and shame.  And I still have to make this choice constantly.  And it’s still hard.  And I still fail.  A lot.

And now the Lord is reminding me of the many times where I did turn to him, but could not discern his answer.  There is an inherent betrayal in this.  Everything I know about God says it is not a betrayal in reality, but when you pour out your heart to God in desperation and hear no response, it sure feels like it.  I am left with nothing to offer to my wife.  Sometimes “I don’t know, we’ll have to trust that God will lead us” is all I can offer to her.  I used to feel defeated when this happened.  Now I know this is an invitation to press in and trust.  He is faithful to answer.  But sometimes not in the way or at the time we want.  Answers come more often now, but not all the time. Probably not even most of the time.  But peace while waiting for an answer does come more frequently.

My Father is now brininging to mind the times when I took risks to have new experiences with him.  When I began to type a question to God in my journal, and then on the next line typed “God:” and continued by typing whatever his still, small voice seemed to be saying.  Often I heard nothing.  But occasionally wisdom way beyond my own poured out through my fingertips. These are sacred moments.  I remember when I was first willing to kneel, or raise my arms, or walk up to the front during worship at church, when the position of my body affected the posture of my heart.  He is reminding me of the first time I tried to give someone a “word” while praying for them up front.  I feel like I fell flat on my face. ‘I’ll just stick to sharing bible verses next time!’  But I tried again.  On another try, I felt led to ask someone about unconfessed sin in their life.  It was scary and I was timid, but I risked.  And God moved.  His neck and back problem was healed after 10 years of consistent pain.

Now God is showing me how I used to see my “quiet time” as a religious activity I performed (inconsistently) in order to feel good about myself and check it off my “good boy” list.  Honestly, I still struggle here.  But now?  Oh my.  He is teaching me how to have relationship.  So this is what intimacy is!  My constant friend and loving Father, with me, waiting to reveal himself at any and every moment, with a heart of love toward me!  The joy of the Lord has taken up residence in my heart.  Each day is an adventure in seeing how His Kingdom rule is going to break in.

Yes Lord, my attitude used to be, “tell them the truth and let the chips fall where they may!”  I didn’t care about hearts; I cared about being right.  In my insecurity, I needed everyone to agree with me and acknowledge my wisdom.  But something undeserved has happened.  The Father has allowed me to feel his heart for some of his precious ones.  To love them with his deep, passionate, redeeming love.  To rejoice when they rejoice, and to weep when they weep.  To cry out for them in prayer, to grab their hand and lead them before His throne of grace.

I’m not sure how I got here.  And there is so much further to go.  All of these weaknesses still hang around to some extent.  When will I stop whoring after the approval of others?  When will I stop chasing false loves that won’t satisfy me?  I don’t know, but I am filled with hope!  “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”  That is his promise. He loves me and He is able to do exceedingly more than we ask or imagine.

But I have to say yes.  I have to risk.  I must decide to choose Him over my embarrassment, my shame, and my weakness.  What is character?  What is spirituality?  What is maturity?  It is the result of the countless choices to say yes to God even when we are afraid.  Father, forgive me for the even more times when I have caved to and made false peace with fear.  I want to say yes to you with all of my heart.  Expand your presence in my heart.

How did I get here?  I don’t deserve it.  I didn’t earn it.  I took the risk to say yes a few times when it was scary.  He did the rest.  And it’s wonderful.  May His name be praised.

Audio from me on the Frank Pastore show

Frank was asking teachers to call in with their worst discipline story.  I felt the Lord might be giving me an opportunity, so I dialed, you can hear the rest!

Frank Pastore & David Schmus

Frank Pastore has a radio show on KKLA 99.5 in the LA area.  Frank and I were at Talbot School of Theology at the same time in the 90s.

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