Last week, if you had happened by my office during one of those rare moments between appointments and meeting the weekly deadlines, you would have found me nose-deep in Charles Hodge's three-volume Systematic Theology.

Since in seminary I adroitly avoided all but the minimum reading requirements in theology, why am I now spending discretionary time reading theology, something I once considered a soporific?

The blame (or credit) goes to my mentor, August Francke, who convinced me that as a pastor, I'm in the idea business. In case you don't know him, I'd like to introduce you to Francke. He's not a celebrity, but he changed my ministry.

I remember when I first met him. I groaned as I read the assignment for my seminary course "Church History from 1500-1800": "A twenty-five-page paper on some aspect of this period."

"Another boring paper," I grumbled. "If only I could find an interesting person to write about." George Mller, the man with the exemplary prayer life, was the only name that came ...

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