First day of class is in the books.

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Well… not the books. The first day of class is in the computer, the web, the intertubes. Initial impressions you might ask? One word again? Well let’s try a list of one words:

Uhhhhh…

One word descriptions aren’t going to work without some explanations. Let’s try this again:

Overwhelmed – Coursework… in a nutshell this is graduate school.  The course work is massive.  I was told this going in, but you have to experience it to see it in all its massiveness. I’m a little worried that this first week appears so overwhelming because two of my three professors remarked how easy they were on their class.

WOW! – Inductive Bible Study… wow… just wow. I remarked to a friend that my reaction to this class was “Wow” and he asked if I was referring to how exciting it is or how overwhelming the course work is. My answer was simply, “Yes!”.

Impressed – Asbury turned on the classes and everything works. No broken links. No unexpected downtime. I’ve seen technology companies fall on their face when sites go live, but Asbury’s IT team was well prepared.

Surprised – The virtual classrooms were filled with old guys (and gals) like me. With a diverse spiritual background, secular background, and educational background, all of these students are going to be sharing many different viewpoints on a wide range of topics. As a bonus, there was a nice mix of young blood on fire for Jesus to keep us old ones on our toes.

Blessed – This is how I felt even in my times of feeling like I could not do this, that this was just too overwhelming, that I’m not smart enough, disciplined enough, talented enough.

Shocked – Barely halfway through my studies of the day, I gained new insights into how God views and loves me (and all of us). Insight that literally made me gasp.

Supported – My wife was amazingly supportive today. She forgave my inattentiveness. She forgave my busy schedule. She fell asleep listening to scripture. She worked on her relationship with God, slept on the couch next to me, pretended not to notice when I came to bed at 2 am, and fixed me breakfast this morning.

Overwhelmed – Wait… did I mention that one already? I guess I’m not overwhelmed, but I’m certainly not underwhelmed. I suppose I’m just…whelmed? Is that a word?

I’m left seeking an answer to two questions if you could be so kind as to suggest a reply. First, how does one transport a Bible in a messenger bag or backpack without destroying it (the bible…not the bag)? Second, am I the only one that didn’t know you weren’t supposed to put two spaces after a “.”?!?!

Yesterday was humbling. Today is humbling. Each day I will seek always to humble myself before our Lord. He called me by name in all of my woeful inadequacies and weaknesses to serve him. He calls the weak to lead the strong as a testament to his power and not our own.

Isn’t he just amazing?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. — 1 Peter 1:3-9 NRSV

First Day of Seminary… New Student Orientation

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Having just returned from my two days of new student orientation at Asbury Theological Seminary, I couldn’t wait to document my observations, jot down my thoughts, and detail the impressions I had of this amazing higher learning institution.  By the way, the guy in the photo above (not the hairy one, but the short guy that can hold incredibly still) is John Wesley.  If you don’t know who he is, give him a Google.

If I had to describe the past two days in a single word it would be “Amazing!”.  If I was allowed more than a single word I would say “incredible, affirming, energizing, awe-inspiring, humbling, and… amazing (wait did I use that one already?)”.  I’ve already described this experience to some friends and family in this way…  This is the first time I have sat in a room with 200 people and didn’t feel like the “weirdo.”

Allow me to explain:

As a Christian in today’s world, we are the weird ones.  It’s okay.  In fact, Jesus tells us not to conform to the ways of the world.  He wants us to be the weird ones… the different ones… so that we are an example to the world of his love.  Normal today is not love.  Normal today is not sacrificing for others.  Normal today is not peace.

For the last two days, I have been surrounded by other weirdos, and it was glorious!  I was surrounded by others that have been called by God to be in a relationship with him, have honored that call, and answered Jesus’s words of “Follow me.”   For a brief moment in time, I felt like part of an army… God’s army.  I wasn’t the lone scout sneaking around the enemy lines; I was in formation with brigades of troops following God’s orders.  That experience is incredibly affirming and left me with a supreme feeling of peace and contentment.

This experience also exposed, and revealed to me, that the seminary experience is more than just classrooms, lectures, and paper writing.  It is more than just acquiring knowledge.  It is more than just becoming a scholar.  It is more than learning how to preach.  The time at seminary is about God transforming you and your family into a well-equipped example of God’s love and power that he will then use to go out into the world and do his work.

Asbury Seminary is made up of buildings, classrooms, chapels, libraries, community centers, student housing, and statues of really short people, but most importantly it contains fantastic people.  These amazing people are professors, administrators, registrars, executives, student leaders, and the support staff required to make it all run.  Every last one of them is dedicated to equipping tomorrow’s leaders.  Every last one of them is following God’s call in their life… the call to equip others to go into every corner of the world and spread His love.  And they were doing it all from an incredible place of humility.  Dr. Tennent (Asbury’s President), and his wife were kind enough to open their beautiful home to us for dinner. Yesterday I sat at lunch with three professors that are some of the top minds in theology.  They all took the time to eat and fellowship with me, sharing their call, their drive, and their passion, while also listening to my testimony and the story of how God is working in my life.

The Asbury community is amazing as well.  As I walked around the student housing, I saw children doing something I haven’t seen in many years.  They were outside playing.  They were riding their bikes, playing stick-ball, running through fields, and being in relationship with each other.  As I sat on the front porch of a friend’s apartment in Kalas Village, people walking would stop, introduce themselves, and carry on a conversation with you.

I see why people come then never want to leave.  I fear that my family will miss out on this sense of community as I take my classes online from afar.

I owe so many people thanks for providing us with this opportunity.  I am overwhelmed by your love and confidence in us as we live out God’s plan for our lives.  I thank the Lord for each of you and the part you play in his plan for us.  I thank the Lord for being with me (and all of you).  I thank him for making all things possible even when they seem overwhelming and completely impossible.

Me… in grad school?  The guy that just wanted to get through high school so he could run off to the army?  The guy that’s never been to college?  I mean come on… that is all God!

I also thank the staff and faculty of Asbury Theological Seminary.  Your hard work.  Your dedication.  Your long hours.  Your time away from family and friends… they are all making a difference.  Your efforts are making a difference in the lives of students.  Your efforts are making a difference in the world.  Your efforts are being blessed by our Lord and Savior.

I am poised to throw down my net.  My muscles are tensed.  My grip is tight.  I stare out into the ocean prepared to abandon my comfortable way of life.  Please pray for me.  Pray that I will have the courage of Peter and Andrew.  Pray that I will lay it all down.

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.…  Matthew 4:18-20

Truth revealed. Knowledge gained. Spiritual growth.

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As I near the end of my first book on my required reading list for my first semester of my hopefully long seminary career (even though it hasn’t even started yet) I am overwhelmed.  I am overwhelmed by what little understanding I have of God’s amazing grace.  In my arrogance I thought I saw the big picture, I thought I had come so far in my spiritual maturity.  What God has revealed to me this evening in my reading is that I am but a toddler.  I am a toddler just learning to walk.  Just as I make the leap of faith in myself and let go of that piece of furniture and take my first steps across the vastness of a living room, I fall flat on my face.  I get back up and take off again, learning from my last fall, and after a step or two, make it a little farther across the room before falling yet again.  My wobbling toddler gait slowly giving way to sure footed steps, past falls forgotten, but future ones still sure to come.

This evening my false assumptions have been laid bare.  Thanks to a book titled The Call authored by Oswald Guinness, my initial assumptions about why God has given me this calling into full-time ministry have been revealed for the conceit that they were.

I have not been “called” because I am worthy.  I am not worthy of anything.

What I am is…. loved.

God loves each and every one of us in this way.  None of us more worthy than the other.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Paying for Seminary… the high cost of ministry preparation.

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Imagine an institution that requires its leaders to attend not only college, but graduate school. Imagine that the graduate school in question is constitutionally forbidden from receiving any form of government aid, that it typically requires three years of full-time schooling for the diploma, that the nature of the schooling bears almost no resemblance to the job in question, and that the pay for graduates is far lower than other professions. You have just imagined the relationship between the Christian Church and her seminaries. – From “The Seminary Bubble” by Jerry Bowyer.

I awoke this morning inspired to tell the tale of raising money for my seminary education.  This may prove challenging since I haven’t actually paid for said education yet, but I thought I would get the ball rolling. First let me provide a brief history of seminary education and its cost over the years.

So what is a modern seminary anyway (I used the qualifying word “modern” because seminaries have been many different things over the centuries)?  Modern seminaries are a graduate school.  Seminary is where one goes to obtain a Master’s degree or Doctorate in Christian studies. Seminaries also offer certificate programs and seminars.  For the first 1600 years or so of Christianity there wasn’t any formal, structured, consistent training of “preachers” (unless you were a Catholic priest).  Before the early 1800’s, when the first modern American theological seminaries were established, pastors were trained via an apprenticeship program in which the aspiring pastor lived and worked side by side with an established pastor.  Depending on the skill levels of the pastor this could have disastrous or glorious results.  One thing was for certain… there was no consistency.  Dissatisfaction with these inconsistencies is what lead to the growth of our modern seminary landscape.  Although, let us not discount that God has been blessing these institutions and their goals as well which has resulted in that growth.

The first theological seminaries were set up within church denominations.  I imagine there was the attitude of “Let’s train these guys (sorry ladies it was just men in the beginning) how to study the bible”.  You see the first seminaries (and even some seminaries today) were set up to train men just to be theological scholars. The training had little to do with teaching pastors how to lead a congregation, preach from the pulpit, or council members on a myriad of issues.  Seminaries took the “leave us alone and let us study the bible!” attitude toward their local churches.  Again, dissatisfaction crept into the the training process and a change was needed.  Thus ushering in the modern seminary landscape of the last half of the 20th century.

Two things started to happen in recent memory.  The first was that new non-denominational seminaries started popping up all over the country.  The second was that the more responsive established seminaries recognized they needed to change.  The focus of seminary training, while still rooted in theology, started to include more practical training in the general pastoral duties of a modern church leader.

Okay… enough of a history lesson on the birth of the modern seminary.  What I presented was a very simplified overview that any scholar could pick apart and destroy me on the details.  This post isn’t meant for them, it is meant for you, my friends and family.

On to the high costs.

Because the first seminaries were denominational based, there was no cost to the men attending.  Parishioner’s tithes were paid to their local church, their local church sent their apportionment’s up the line, and the seminary was a line item in some past church accountant’s hand written spreadsheet.  Even just thirty years ago the cost of attending most seminaries was completely free.

That is not the landscape of today.

Seminary costs today range from free (rarely) to over $800 a credit hour. ( See: Big List of Seminaries and their Cost.) The average seems to be in the $500-$600 per credit hour range.

The seminary that has chosen me (more on that in the forthcoming Part Three of my testimony) is Asbury Theological Seminary. Asbury’s per credit hour cost is $575 for a full-time student.  I will need a minimum of 96 credit hours to earn my Master of Divinity.  If I plug those numbers into my calculator app (who owns a real calculator anymore?) it totals at least $55,200 for tuition alone.  Of course that doesn’t include books, fees, and other expenses.  Those other expenses add up to about $600 per semester, three semesters a year plus “intensive” studies in January and June, bringing an estimated grand total of approximately $70,000 over the next four years of studies.

Ironic isn’t it?  A profession that teaches God’s word that says … Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.- Romans 13:8 requires you to gain an education that results in high debt?

Now here is the good news… correction… here is the great news!  Asbury Theological Seminary, and its leaders, are dedicated and committed to equipping men and women for their call into ministry.  They have formed and created many scholarships, scholarship programs, and church partnering programs.  They have created an institution capable of turning out highly trained, educated, and motivated teachers, pastors, ministers, and missionaries with zero student debt.

As my friends and family, some of you have already had conversations with me, or emails from me, detailing an amazing scholarship program that I have been accepted into.  For those of you that haven’t heard from me yet, allow me to explain…

I was one of eight new students accepted into the Ministry Partners Program. The MPP (I must shorten the name or my fingers are going to fall off from all of this typing!) is a program that equips students with fundraising skills and experience that they will use in their future ministries.  The MPP provides the student with a full tuition scholarship.  That’s right… a free $55,200 education and Master of Divinity degree.  The student is still responsible for housing, books, and other administration fees.

Here is how the program works, and it is where I am asking for help from you, the reader.  The student “partners” with their local church(es), friends, family, congregation members, and/or complete strangers.  The partner church(es) contribute at least $500 per school year to the fund set up by Asbury Theological Seminary.  The student’s partners also commit to donating to this fund.  It is suggested that the student form this partner relationship with at least 12 individuals who will commit to donating a suggested $45 a month towards their education (can be  paid yearly, quarterly, monthly, or one lump sum).  And just to clarify, both the partner church and partner individuals only commit to these donations while the student is attending.  Once the student has earned their degree the donations are no longer required.

Let’s simplify this explanation even more… If I raise a minimum of $7,000 per school year via my partners I will receive unlimited free tuition.  That $7,000 can be raised through any combination of sources.  If I have 30 partners, their donation need only be $18 per month. If I only have 5 partners they would need to contribute $108 a month.

Partners will receive all the benefits of being a supporter of Asbury Theological Seminary. This includes all donations being tax deductible, the opportunity to visit Asbury’s campus and tour the facilities, and frequent updates on my progress and experiences.

The partners also commit to contributing to the student’s success in a far more powerful way than money… and that is through the power of prayer.  Your prayers will have a much bigger impact on my time at Asbury than any dollar amount you may give.

Because of this, what I find most exciting about this program has nothing to do with finances.  After all, money is irrelevant when we believe it all belongs to God and he provides all we need.  What I look forward to having is a group of supporters that will hold me accountable.  Knowing that a group of people are giving up some of their hard earned treasure to help provide me with an education is a powerful motivator.  Knowing that I have a group of supporters that I can turn to when the thousands of pages of required reading has me overwhelmed.  Knowing that Jennifer has people she can turn to when her husband has his nose buried in a book, or a computer monitor, pouring over research.  Knowing that I have a group of supporters praying for me, for my wife, and for my children. Knowing that all of these things are provided to us is a powerful reminder of God’s promises kept in our lives.

God has created my path to ministry and to seminary.  God has surrounded me with loving, caring, supportive friends and family that are an amazing blessing in my life and the life of my family.  God has also created a way for me to receive this incredible education completely debt free.  I have faith that his Holy Spirit will work through that support network to fund this Ministry Partner Program.

And because of that faith…

I most humbly ask that you the reader, you my friend, you my family member, and even you the complete stranger, prayerfully consider becoming one of my partners.  I do not ask this lightly.  I do not ask this quickly or haphazardly. I ask this after prayer, deliberation, and time talking with God.

If you are lead to donate and become one of my partners you may make your contribution at the following website:Ministry Partners Donation Link -Be sure to select my name from the list of students, but also consider making at least a small donation to any and all of the students in the program. Please be aware that I have a deadline in July for all of my partners to make at least their first donation by then.
I thank you for considering this call to give, no matter the dollar amount given (even if it is a one-time gift of just $5).  I thank you for considering this call, even if your support is only through prayer.  I thank Tammy Hogan and the leadership at Asbury Theological Seminary for creating and administering such programs. I thank those of you that have already committed to partnering with me.
And most importantly I thank God for each and every one of you in my life.
I love you all.
– Jason A. Hyer

God gets out his 2×4… from spiritual whisper to a smack up side the head.

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Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
  — Acts 2:17

I’ve often struggled with discerning God’s call in my life, as I’m sure many of you have experienced as well.  Since I’m so close to the issues, and because I’m human, I tend to put too much of my feelings, wants, and desires into the situation.  I’ve remarked many times that if God is going to call me into full-time pastoral ministry he is going to have to smack me in the head with a 2×4. At times I’ve felt the call into ministry only to eventually talk myself out of it.  Convincing myself that what I was feeling wasn’t really “The Call”, but merely a moment of spiritual high.  These…. let’s call them “spiritual whispers” … were often following a very uplifting event in my life.  Often times following a Sunday in which I preached a message, lead a mission trip or outreach event, I would go to my pastor and excitedly tell him, “I’m ready, put me in Coach!”.  He would give me that “look”.  I’m sure you’ve seen that look… you know the one…he grins, but on the inside he’s thinking “son, you have no idea what you’re saying”.  I’ve gotten that look many times over the last six years.

This time was different.  This time there was no doubt what God was telling me to do.  This time there weren’t any murky “signs” to decipher or discern.  This time there weren’t even any feelings involved.  This time God called me by name… literally.

Please allow me to explain.

On March 8th I was given the opportunity to preach at Asbury United Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana (https://www.facebook.com/asburyumccol?fref=ts&ref=br_tf) in place of the head pastor Dave Blystone (Dave’s Blog) who was traveling in Israel.  Dave mentioned that he would like me to teach on John Wesley’s Prevenient Grace.  I had no idea what prevenient grace was (it’s divine grace that precedes human decision by the way), but I set about learning all I could on what John Wesley had to say about it.  Little did I know at the time, but God was nudging me along a path.

Before I even started preparing this message I stopped, humbled myself, and prayed that God would remove me from the message, that the words I wrote and the words I spoke be his and his alone.  A peace settled over me and I wrote out the entire message word for word in one sitting.  Understand though that there were hours spent researching the many forms of grace our Lord provides.  My time spent preparing messages in the past have always been when I feel closest to God.  It feels like I’m having a two sided conversation with him, rather than just me doing all the talking.  For this message I felt especially close to him.

March 8th quickly was upon me, but there wasn’t the usual nervousness or tension that comes with public speaking.  The people at Asbury UMC were open and welcoming, even allowing me to play my bass guitar with their worship team in second service.  I delivered the same message to both of their services that day (March 8th Sermon) and let me tell you it was both exhausting and exhilarating (for more insight into that read: 10 Things You Forget About Pastors) . Monday morning saw me back in my pastor’s office.  Before I could even finish walking through the door, my pastor fired off the question, “so… ready to go into full-time ministry NOW?”.  (I have a feeling he was expecting the usual “put me in Coach” conversation we have had every other time I’ve preached).  This time…again…was different.  I told him (paraphrasing here) “nope, not this time, it was a great experience, but I’ll stay with what I’m doing”.

Oh how I was in for a shock…

I was just two weeks from the events detailed here: Part One: And it all started in a Captain D’s.

Let’s skip ahead to the end of Part One where I have now had God show up in my life in a very real and physical way (well he was always there, but I wasn’t as open to him as I should have been.. see the definition of prevenient grace again).  God has just revealed to me that he finds me worthy.  Worthy of doing His work and worthy of being used in his plans.  It’s around this time that I come to the realization that it’s time to start paying back this kindness.  It’s time to do more than just float through life accepting all these gifts, but not passing them on to others.

At this point let me point out a couple of things.  I know that I can never repay God.  I know that I do not have his power or ability to even come close to paying the price that Christ paid for us.  So let me describe it this way… it’s time for me to start thanking God in more than just words.

With these thoughts spinning in my mind I went to sleep one night… and I dreamed dreams.

In a dream God came to me as a ball of light too bright to look at directly.  An arm reached out holding a bible that was open, but the words were in a language I could not read.  At this point God spoke and said “Jason, open your bible and read Tithus Chapter 2”.  I instantly woke up, then woke up Jennifer to tell her what had happened.  I’m sure she thought I was crazy as I described this dream to her at 2am.  I reached for my bible turning to the Table of Contents to search out this book of Tithus.  Turns out there isn’t a book of Tithus, but there is a Titus.  While it is technically a “book” of the bible it is less than two pages long (depending on your version).  For those of you that don’t know (as I myself didn’t until I did the research) the book of Titus was written by Paul to encourage a young pastor on the island of Crete.  Here is the contents of chapter 2:

Teach Sound Doctrine

But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, 10 not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all,[a] 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior,[b] Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority.[c] Let no one look down on you.

There it was in verse 1… But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine.

I’ve often read of others that have had God appear to them in a dream, hear an auditory voice when no one was around, or see a vision.  I never thought I would be blessed with such an event in my life.  I spent the next 48 hours floating around on a spiritual high.  I’ve describe it this way to others… this was my burning bush moment.  It’s moments like these that make me scratch my head at non-believers.  How can one doubt the presence of our Savior?

But again… God wasn’t done yet.  I thought he had hit me upside the head with a 2×4, but it turns out he was just merely winding up his swing.

Next up in PART THREE…God prepares the path.

And it started in a Captain D’s…

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PART ONE in a series of posts detailing the events that transpired in the last 90 days that have lead me to seminary. – What I present to you is my witness to the power of our Lord and how he can perform miracles in the least of us. 

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Cor. 1:31

It all started in a Captain D’s restaurant… on the side of the highway… deep in Tennessee.

We were on our way home from a week’s long vacation to Orlando, Jennifer was driving, and I was half asleep in the far back seat.  All day I had been struggling and talking to God about a pain that was on my heart.  I was asking God why he hadn’t taken that pain from me.  I was asking him what purpose he had in store for me for that pain.  God doesn’t ever give us more than we can endure, but I felt I was at the end of my endurance.  I think at that point I finally gave it all over to Him.  It was about this time that we stopped for dinner at a Captain D’s.

Here we are standing in line, waiting to place our order.  My wife, my girls, and my mother all in front of me.  Suddenly a man behind me asks, “do you like civil war relics?”.  I turn around and there is a 50 year old man and what appears to be his 75 year old father.  I replied that I did and he proceeded to pull out a small box from his shirt pocket.  He opened the lid and revealed several civil war era bullets and other relics and asked if I’d like to purchase any.  I remarked that I didn’t and he began to put away the box.  That’s when I noticed the box itself.  The box had originally contained a small New Testament Bible.  I mentioned that I liked what the box used to contain and this sparked a deep conversation about God in which we witnessed to each other about our faith.  For what seemed like twenty minutes (but was probably only three or four) we stood in line conversing about God, lost souls, and how we had to work hard to save non-believers.  The crowd of people in line seemed to flow around us.  I was filled with an intense feeling of peace as I stood sharing how God has worked in my life with these two men, this father and son.  Our conversation broke off as we reached the front of the line, we placed our orders, and all found seats in a crowded dining room.  During our meal the son would make comments to me from across the room.  We attempted to carry on a conversation, but words were lost in the noise.  At one point the son asked me “are you related to ______?”  Something caused me to not hear the name he said, but not being from anywhere near where we were in Tennessee I said, “No”.  What are the odds he would know someone I was related to?  He persisted though and I remarked that I wasn’t from around there.  At that point he gave me a look of a father trying to explain something to a child and said “you don’t know what I’m talking about do you?”.  I said that I didn’t, we finished our meal, and left the restaurant.

I assumed my role of passenger again and crawled into the far back seat of the three row seating Buick.  I had been driving most of the day and I was exhausted.  Within a short time of driving we entered Nashville, it was now getting later into the night.  Suddenly our vehicle was coming to stop in the middle of the highway.  Jennifer had slammed on the brakes to avoid something in the road that had apparently fallen off a semi.  This brought me instantly awake and I looked up to see what was going on.  As we made our way around this giant item in the roadway we could see broken glass everywhere.  Just as I was wondering what could cause all of this glass we see a car flipped upside down, roof smashed in, resting against the giant concrete divider of the highway.  I yelled for Jennifer to pull over so we could help.  It was apparent this vehicle had just came to rest.  I jumped out of our vehicle and ran to this over turned car, all the while vehicles were screeching to a halt around us.  The passenger door was facing me and the driver’s door was against the concrete barrier.  I began pulling on the crushed door and managed to open it enough to crawl inside the vehicle with the trapped occupants.  I found a husband and wife lying upside down covered in glass and debris.  I managed to get the husband free from his seat belt, but the wife could not move.  She was face down against what would be the roof of the car facing away from me.  I went into EMT mode and began speaking to, and examining, the patient.  I searched her body for any obvious signs of injury while keeping her calm and obtaining her medical history.  I discovered that she was 42 and had a stroke two years previous that caused partial paralysis on one side of her body.  This was bad.  While she didn’t complain of any injuries, she could not feel one side of her body that could be badly injured. I could not attempt to move her or extricate her from the vehicle without immobilizing her.  It was time to wait for the professional firefighters and all their equipment to remove this woman.  By this time a State Police officer arrived and I briefed him on the developments from inside the wrecked car.  I continued to speak with the husband and wife and attempted to keep her calm as she was still upside down and unable to move.  She mentioned Jesus and I asked if I could pray with her.  I laid hands on her and her husband and we began to pray.  As I was praying it was as if God was right there in the vehicle with us.  We all felt it.  I felt like I could reach out my hand and touch Him.  I had never felt God as a physical presence in my life.  It was overwhelming.  As our prayer finished the firefighters arrived.  They pulled me from the vehicle and began to work on the woman and I returned to our car.  At the car I found my wife, my mother, my 13yo daughter and her best friend had been praying for us while I was in that flipped vehicle.  Again I was overwhelmed.

As I began to drive away from this accident scene God revealed to me what he had done.  God revealed what his plans had been.  Our Lord had sent two angels to visit me… in a Captain D’s… on the side of the highway… deep in Tennessee.

The Bible is filled with at least 17 incidents of God sending angels into the world before him.  They are sent to send a message.  They are sent to test if someone is worthy.  They are sent to do God’s work on Earth (as it is in Heaven).  On this night in Tennessee two men appeared to me in that Captain D’s.  I believe they were angels sent to discern if I was worthy.  They were sent to see if I would witness about my faith to a stranger.  I also believe they were there to delay me.  Their visit, our conversation, resulted in me, a trained Emergency Medical Technician, being at the scene of a terrible accident just as a flipped vehicle came to a stop.

God had found me, a lowly sinner, a person that had run from his call for years, worthy to do his work.  Me.  Insignificant me.  Worthy. That revelation was, and is, amazing.  That feeling, that event, healed my long held pain.  It healed me within hours of turning it all over to God.  It is yet another example of how God has the miraculous ability to make something great come from something terrible.

And the woman?  She was uninjured.

We read accounts of eye witness statements from accident scenes in which unnamed strangers appear and provide aid to victims.  Those victims go on to describe how the aid giver must have been an angel sent from God, as no one saw them appear at the accident scene, and no one saw them depart… they just vanished into thin air.  I believe God used me in this way on that night.  This woman never knew my name.  This woman never saw my face.  When this believer goes back to her friends and family she will witness to a story in which a nameless stranger appeared right when their accident happened.  This stranger prayed with them, offered aid, and then was gone…

God found me worthy to be used in his plans.  What can I possibly do to pay back such an incredible honor?

Next up in PART TWO… God pays a visit with a 2×4.

“your old men will dream dreams. – Acts 2:17

Registration Completed!

COLLEGE-Ahead

My first three classes are now registered and they are as follows:

Vocation of Ministry CD501:

The following question serves as a guide as we proceed through this course: “How is our vocation as those called to Christian ministry discerned, shaped, and sustained? We’ll seek to answer that question in two ways: (1) by exploring from a Wesleyan perspective the biblical and theological foundations of Christian personhood and vocation and, (2) by examining the nexus between the call to ministry and the formation of persons in ministry.

Basic Christian Doctrine TH501:

An introductory course that bases the theological formation of students upon biblical data as well as upon the classical Christian tradition, contemporary theology, and Wesleyan theological distinctives with a view to helping students grasp the importance of theology for the practice of ministry.

Inductive Bible Study NT(IBS)510 The Book of Matthew:

NT (IBS) 510 Matthew is a basic course in inductive biblical studies. The primary purpose is to create foundational knowledge and skills in an inductive approach to Bible study, especially in the areas of observation and interpretation. The professor and students’ study of the Gospel of Matthew will demonstrate and
allow practice of a methodical approach that can be utilized in all other biblical books. Some of the main themes of Matthew’s Gospel are highlighted in the inductive Bible study process.

I wanted to take classes that weren’t too taxing to start off with.  I figured if I tried to start with an ancient Greek or Hebrew class in my first semester it would end in disaster.  A fellow student recommended the above classes.  While the Inductive Bible Study class may prove to be a real challenge, I thought it was important to feed my spiritual growth with at least one class per term.  This class should also help my study skills for future classes.

I’d love to hear feedback from anyone that might have had any of these classes in the past.

Have a blessed day!

– Jason

Acceptance

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What an amazing letter to receive!

To my friends and family.

Jennifer and I, and our girls have finally accepted God’s call to enter full-time ministry.  To some of you this may be a shock, to others the reaction might be “Well duh, it’s about time Jason.”  You see for the last several years I have had the calling to become a pastor, a preacher, or whatever you call the person that stands in front of your church and delivers the message. I wrestled with that calling, telling myself it wasn’t real, or I wasn’t ready.  I’ve struggled with discerning God’s call in my life.  I’ve struggled with the signs he has given me.  My weaknesses got in my way.  Roadblocks were in front of me, placed there by the world and by my decisions. Three months ago, almost to the day, events started to transpire to both clear my path and to make my path clear to me.

I will go into those events in more detail in future blog posts on my website oldguyseminarian.org, but one of the biggest roadblocks was my education, or more accurately, my lack of education.  To be a pastor, you should have higher education.  It isn’t a strict requirement, there are lots of pastors that don’t have this, but it is highly recommended.  I have never had a day of college.  No Bachelor’s.  No undergraduate work of any kind.  It was a pretty big hurdle to overcome. I had never thought attending seminary was possible.

Just eight weeks ago I had a conversation with a young man, a seminary student himself, and a friend.  Evan Guse revealed to me that Asbury Theological Seminary (asburyseminary.edu) granted, though rarely, a “No Bachelor” exemption to attend their world renowned seminary.  Evan said it was setup for “old guys like you!” (hence the name of this website.. thanks Evan!) There were strict guidelines and prerequisites in place that had to be met to even apply for this special exemption.  I won’t bore you with all of the details in this post (I assure you I will in future ones), but I had to score very well on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), as well as write several graduate school level essays.

Thanks to the power of our Lord I scored extremely well on the GRE.  I scored better than 87% of every graduate school applicant that has taken the exam in fact!  That certainly didn’t come from me, I boast in the Lord for that score.  I just was going to take the test to see how poorly I would do with zero prep work to have a baseline to work from!  Asbury also found my essays and application satisfactory and as evidenced by the above letter they have accepted me into their Masters of Divinity program starting this fall.

That’s right.. without a day of college I get to go to graduate school and work on a Master’s degree!

How’s that for evidence of the power of our God?!?!

Asbury Theological Seminary is located on a beautiful campus in Wilmore Kentucky, but don’t worry I have no plans to move there (yet).  Two-thirds of my degree will be completed on-line with the remaining one-third completed via “intensive” classes that will require travel to the Wilmore campus in the months of January and June.

This is going to be a lot of work.  I’m told the class load is intense.  We will need to lean on our family and friends for support in this calling.  My current plans are to continue in my job for the first semester of school then approach the United Methodist Church for a student pastor appointment within driving distance from our new home. This is also going to be a grand adventure, I hope that you will “follow” my blog and keep track of our progress here at oldguyseminarian.org.  Be sure to leave a reply below as you are lead.

Thank you to everyone that has poked, prodded, and pushed me along this path.  I wouldn’t be here without your love and support.

And thanks to our Lord for being a loving God, for being a God that always keeps his promises, for being a God that sent his Son to die on a cross for our sins.

In humble service to Christ,

Jason A. Hyer
Director of Mission and Outreach
Sandy Hook United Methodist Church
Student – Asbury Theological Seminary

An introduction…

First let me get something out of the way.

I am not a narcissistic person. I do not begin to suppose that I have a depth of knowledge, wisdom, or insight that you the reader can garner a wealth of information from. I have begun this blog for a few different reasons, and self-aggrandizing is not one of them.

One of the reasons I have started this blog is to track my writing proficiency as I progress through the graduate school experience of seminary.  Hopefully, as I hone my skills with the pen (figuratively speaking of course) that will come through in these blog posts.  After all, I have not had an English or grammar class in 25 years.

Secondly, I want to document and share my witness of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  My story… my witness… is a real testament to the power of faith and the power of our God.  I boast not in myself, but in the Lord.  Let these posts, words, articles, and insights all forever lift His name first.

Third I want to keep forever in evidence the ways my partner in this life, my loving wife Jennifer, supports my calling as an individual, as a couple, and as a family.  I have not always included her in everything I do, just as in my life I have done with God.  But just like my relationship with God, when I have included her, it always leads to greater success and blessings.  She is sharing in this journey with me.  She is sacrificing with me, for me, and for our God.  She can be my greatest champion.  I am forever grateful to God for putting her in my life… even in the challenging trials of being in a relationship for over 27 years.

Fourth, I want to share my experiences going through seminary as a late bloomer… as an “old guy”.  I’m not the oldest to go through seminary by far, but I am certainly not a young man.  My prayer is that I get through this four-year process, and these pages can serve as encouragement to other older men and women that are considering seminary and a life of pastoral ministry.  My hope is that these pages don’t serve to scare anyone off from seminary or ministry if it all goes off course and ends in disaster.

And lastly, I look forward to your support and encouragement along the way.  Be sure to leave a comment or two.  Let’s have discussions about the issues that will come up.  Let me know your experiences and your opinions in the comments below.

May you have a wonderfully blessed day.

In humble service to Christ.

– Jason