Monday, February 8, 2016

Seminary Update: February 8, 2016

Today officially begins my last semester in seminary. Yikes! I’m taking 17 credits this semester, one credit less than last semester but still quite busy. I’m working about 3.5 hours during the week as well, which gives me something else to do and (a little) money coming in. I am SO thankful to be here and have made some great friends! Picture below is 3 classmates and I ice skating last Saturday.

Here are my Classes for this semester:
Counseling Observations: In this class we get to watch 12 consecutive sessions between a counselor and counselee. I also took this class in January (but different people) and learned a lot.
Biblical Theology II: This is basically a New Testament Theology class.
New Testament for Ministry: This is a real practical class which more specifically looks at how we use the New Testament in ministry and counseling.
Case Study Seminar: This class takes a in-depth look at the counseling process and how change happens.
Counseling Children & Adolescences: Pretty self-explanatory.
Counseling Problems & Procedures: This one is rather self-explanatory as well. We’ll be looking at some more complex issues and how we help people who struggle with them. This one will be pretty intense, but should be very interesting!
I’m also doing an independent study where I’m writing a research paper on Issues in Post-Adoption Counseling. It’s an area I have interest in so it should be quite educational. 

So full load ahead, but I'm excited to be back in classes and looking forward to learning a lot! It will be challenging for sure though - counseling can be messy.

Prayer Requests:
1) That I will learn a lot from my classes, focus, persevere and manage my time well!
2) As of this past month I am in a relationship with a young man that I met at my church here in Philly. Things are going really well (!), but needless to say Mike and I would appreciate your prayers! And while quite exciting, it can be a bit distracting! :-D  (Picture below is of us in front of Independence Hall.)
3) Post-graduation plans. I am praying about a ministry opportunity for after graduation (here in Philly because obviously I'd like to stay!), but I’d appreciate your prayers in that regard that the Lord would make clear the way before me. 

Thank you! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reading List: January/February 2016

Finished this month:

Be Free: Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality (Commentary on Galatians) by Warren Wiersbe

This was a good read and I would recommended it (although I would disagree with his dispensational views on two occasions). It was a very easy read too - it didn’t feel like a “commentary”. Warren Wiersbe gives a very good explanation of what it means to be set free from the law and walk in the Spirit. If you want to read/study more about that, this is a great book for you!

“Justification is not simply ‘forgiveness,’ because a person could be forgiven and then go out and sin and become guilty. Once you have been ‘justified by faith’ you can never be held guilty before God.”
“We have been ‘raised to walk in newness of life’ (Rom 6:4), and since we live by His resurrection power, we do not need the ‘help’ of the law.”
“[This] simply means that we no longer need the external force of the law to keep us in God’s will because we have the internal leading of the Holy Spirit of God (Rom 8:1-4).” (emphasis his)

Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Phil Ryken

I loved this book! It was such a beautiful exposition on love and how Christ is the personification of perfect love. It was pretty convicting – wow how short I fall of God’s love! But as Phil writes, “What makes these verses so beautiful is that they are really a portrait of Jesus and his love” (p. 33). It is Christ and His love that must enthrall our hearts first of all. If we are to understand and grow in love, we must seek to know Jesus, for “A Christian is someone who has experienced the love of Jesus and who therefore pursues love in relationship to other people” (p. 189). In each chapter, Phil focused on a certain attribute of love and then moved to a passage of Scripture where Christ demonstrated that particular characteristic.

“We will never learn how to love by working it up in our own hearts, but only by having more of Jesus in our lives” (p. 23).

Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper

In this fifth book in his “The Swans Are Not Silent” series (all GREAT books by the way – definitely ones you want to read!), John Piper shares from the lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson and John Patton. Each of these three men suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, the true Gospel of salvation and the truth of God’s Word.

William Tyndale lived in exile for years but later was captured and burned at the stake because of his work of translating the Scriptures into English. It is mostly from his work that we have the English translations that we have today. The Catholic Church was so opposed to his work – mainly because he sought to faithful translate words like “elder” instead of “priest” and therefore undermined much of what Catholic theology actually taught! But Tyndale realized that for the sake of the life-giving Gospel, the Bible must be translated, and he gave his life for that cause.
John Patton lost his first wife and newborn shortly after arriving in the New Hebrides islands, but he remained and worked among cannibals. When one person tried to persuade him not to go for fear he would be “eaten by cannibals” John replied with remarkable courage: “I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer” (p. 58).  What a remarkable man of prayer and perseverance! He wrote, “Whatever trials have befallen me in my Earthly Pilgrimage, I have never had the trial of doubting that perhaps, after all, Jesus had made some mistake. No! my blessed Lord Jesus makes no mistakes! When we see all His meaning, we shall understand, what now we can only trustfully believe that all is well – best for us, best for the cause most dear to us, best for the good of others, and the glory of God” (p. 76).  God give me such faith! While there was much suffering and resistance to his work after some years saw amazing fruit as one entire island turned to Christ!
Adoniram Judson lost 2 wives and multiple children to disease in the midst of missions work in Burma. 6 years it took for them to be able to baptize their first convert. At one point he was imprisoned and nearly died; the after-affect was that his wife and newborn child did die. He felt this loss greatly and struggled through some depressive times. But he wrote, “If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings” (p.87).

Talk about inspirational. John Piper ends the book with these words: “The question is not whether we will die, but whether we will die in a way that bears fruit” (p. 107). In our life and in our death, may we bring glory to God and fruitfulness to His mission.

Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture edited by Robert Graves

I’m pretty much laying my cards on the table with this one; a number of my Christian brothers and sisters out there will disagree with me on this issue. But since in the last few years I have become more and more convinced that Cessationism is not Biblical I think this was a good book and an important one. It was written by various Charismatic/Pentecostal theologians in defense of Charismatic/Continuationist theology. The first half of the book has several articles/essays written in direct response to John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire. (My go-to and favorite essay in this section was the one written by Craig Keener – a really excellent defense but done with incredible humility and grace!) The second half of the book is a whole bunch of essays written defending Charismatic/Pentecostal theology or the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit – particularly focusing on prophesy, healing, miracles and tongues. I would disagree rather strongly with the Pentecostal writers on their emphasis on tongues (I’m not convinced that all Christians have that particular gift). I’m also not sure where I stand on the apostolic gift/office debate. Still, it was very interesting (and helpful) to read their perspective. Favorite chapters in this section were “Continuationism – A Redemptive-Historical Perspective” by James Hernando, and “Restoration of the Kingdom’s Miraculous Power” by J.P. Moreland.

“The meaning of ‘canon’ is not all that God has ever said, but the critically agreed-on measuring stick for evaluating other revelation… Depending on God for personal direction, sometimes through sensing an inner guidance, is not the same as inventing a new, post-Biblical doctrine… The New Testament model for believers is not to reject all prophesy but to discern what is right from what is wrong (1 Cor 14:29; 1 Thes 5:20-22).”    – Craig Keener (p. 53-54)

“Biblical faith is not a formula by which God can be manipulated but a relationship with one whose character we have come to trust… I must conform my experience to the Bible rather than the Bible to my experience. In other words, I remain committed to spiritual gifts because I am committed to Scripture.” – Craig Keener (p. 147 & 161)

(Addressing the fact that Cessationism has become an increasingly minority position…) “This means that the harshness and rigidity that sometimes characterized Cessationists advocates should be tempered not merely because all of us need to dialogue about our differences in a gracious manner, but because it may well be intellectually irresponsible to embody the sort of certainty with respect to Cessationism that sometimes fuels such harshness and rigidity. Even if you remain a solidly convinced Cessationist, however, there is still plenty of room in your theology to increase your passion for and expectation of the supernatural, miraculous aspect of new covenant life and ministry.”    – J.P. Moreland (p. 293)

Future Reading:
My spring semester will be starting up very soon, so I don’t think I’ll get to any additional reading. But I will most an update at some point about my classes and assignments. Thanks for reading!