Matt is by far the coolest nerd I know...a walking anomaly!
He can't go to the beach without a 500 page volume on Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism, studies Hebrew and Greek for fun and enjoys diving into deep conversations with other brains that might as well be IN Greek to me. At the same time he'll beg you to throw a football, goes to town with Tower of Power on the bass, and won't stop asking for a motorcycle.
God has knit Matt together in a unique way, and on an almost daily basis, I see God using the two sides of Matt to unpack Scripture in a profound and practical way, to relate intimately with Harvard scholars and with men who cannot sign their names and to disciple men and women to deeper walks with Jesus.
So if you know Matt, it probably comes to no surprise that he's feeling led to continue in his education for the glory of God and to help further His kingdom.
I asked him to share with you a bit of this journey and to help answer some questions about why, when, where and how. Tune into your nerd brain (mine is very small and nestled somewhere way back there :) and read on!:
For the past 16 months, I've had the privilege of prayerfully exploring God's call on my life to get a PhD. Since being an undergraduate student at Asbury College, I have sensed God's call to learn and teach scripture professionally.
The Spirit-led pursuit of that calling has resulted in my becoming professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Emmaus Biblical Seminary of Haiti (2007-present). It has also resulted in me earning a Master of Arts (Biblical Literature) degree from Wesley Biblical Seminary via a distance learning model (2008-2012).
In the Spring 2010, as I began to approach the finish line of the Masters degree program, I began to pray, reflect and have informed dialogue with friends,colleagues, family members and ministry partners about my Spirit-inspired ambitions for pursuing a terminal, post-graduate research degree. After months of such prayer, reflection and dialogue, I currently find myself at the end of one academic journey, stepping directly into another.
I've recently been accepted as a doctoral (Ph.D.) candidate at the University of Chester (through St. John's of Nottingham) in England. I'll be conducting research on dynamics of syntax in Hebrew poetry in Psalms 113-118 (as a sample text). I will be a part-time student which translates into six years of research, research, more research, accompanied by writing, writing and more writing.
When researching options for doctoral study, my priority criteria for choosing a program was finding the person that I felt called to study with/under. Many names came up (thank you Dr. John Oswalt, Dr. Ron Smith, Dr. Victor Hamilton, Dr. Sandy Richter, Dr. Bryan Easley, Dr. Gordon McConville, Dr. Dan Block and finally, Dr. David G. Firth for all your help in coaching me through this process).
Second to the right person was the right subject to study. I've known for quite a while that I wanted to do something in hermeneutics, linguistics and literary criticism in the Old Testament. In other words, I wanted to being doing a close reading of texts with special attention paid to linguistics and interpretation. I've also been teaching Hebrew poetry, Hebrew language, and Psalms at EBS for several years.
The third criteria was location. If possible, I wanted to enroll in a program that would allow me to do research and write while maintaing our family's ministry role--where we still feel passionately called--in Haiti. Thankfully, British doctoral programs permit such scenarios.
One of our visiting professors at EBS (thanks Pam S.!) put me in contact with David G. Firth from St. John's of Nottingham (validate through the University of Chester). As correspondence between myself and Dr. Firth ensued, I sensed more and more that this is where God wanted me. So I applied, and have been accepted :).
Dr. Firth is from Australia, a former missionary (Bible prof) to South Africa, and is currently teaching OT in England (he's also the director of research and distance learning at St. John's of Nottingham). He is a well-published and reputable Pslams, Hebrew and literary criticism scholar.
Much more importantly than all of this, he is a man of God who has a burden for the Kingdom and for the biblical literacy and theological competency of the Church.I'm scheduled to be in the UK for three weeks this summer.
The majority of my time there will be spent in Nottingham with Dr. Firth. I'll spend one weekend speaking at the annual OMS Scotland Conference in Glasgow (thanks Davies family!), one weekend in Wales speaking at the home church of the director of OMS UK office (thanks Chris P.!).
Finally, I will have one week in Cambridge at the Tyndale House (they have an extensive theological and biblical studies library) as well as the University of Cambridge library. My dates: May 16-June 6.
For every year in the program, I will have to spend four weeks in the UK. Again, the rest the time, we will be in Haiti where I will research and write part-time. I've trusted from the very beginning of this journey that God has been at the helm of this pursuit, not me.
I must admit that I had my sight set on a certain school and scholar for a number of months, but God (in quite the miraculous fashion) redirected my sights to St. John's with Dr. Firth. Over and over again, God confirmed this. Aren't you glad that He's faithful (and competent) to communicate with us?
I must also admit that I'm tempted to be a bit...okay, a LOT intimidated by the idea of starting into a PhD program at this point in my life. But, when I stop and reflect on all the things that he has accomplished through my life by the power of His Holy Spirit, I remember that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that he is not able to accomplish through his people. This is a Red Sea moment.
We all know the old adage that tells us that calling is always accompanied by equipping (makes you think twice about Jesus' call on our lives for us to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect, doesn't it?). More than anything, I hope and trust that I come out of this program looking more like Him.
If nothing else, this is my desire. His life in exchange for mine (ours), everyday (what's your desire?).Thanks is owed to so many for their support and prayers through this process. If there's anything that our family wishes you to know, it is that we love you and are standing on your prayers and His faithfulness!