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Written by Mrs. Pam Smith Friday, 02 March 2012 14:13

Chris Drager earned his Master of Divinity from Biblical Seminary in 2004. On his LinkedIn account, he summarized his vocation as teaching Upper School World History from a Christian Worldview and with a Classical Methodology.  Doesn’t that sound like a great job?

Chris was also a husband, a father, and an artist. In fact we have one of his artistic creations in the hallway at Biblical. The path God had for him was not one that any of us would ask for. His cancer that started while he was a student here at Biblical returned five times, yet his love for his savior never left him.

In 2005 I had the privilege of hearing Chris talk about living a life when the path isn’t so great.  I saved a portion of his presentation and I share it in honor of his passing to glory on March 1, 2012.

But, if the Lord chooses a different path for us - one of great difficulty, He is still good. He promises that for those who love Him and are called by His grace, all things (even great suffering) are for an ultimate good. The Lord is too kind and loving to harm His children. Although He may allow difficulty and pain and suffering, He promises that it is for our growth and maturity and for our witness to the world around us.

He is not content to save us and let us be immature Christians. He wants to build our faith and trust in Him. He wants to make us strong in our reliance on His grace. So He calls us to take up the way of suffering as Christ did. We are to follow Christ's path. By His grace, we will, knowing that Christ's path ultimately leads to glory in the next life.

For now, we all, as true believers in Christ, walk down pathways of various sufferings. Though they are different, they all are designed by a sovereign and loving heavenly Father who is too wise to make a mistake and too kind to bring us harm.

Thank God for His unsearchable wisdom. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. O, the depths of His love and mercy toward us in Christ. In the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we have all the demonstration of God's goodness toward us that we need to trust Him in times of difficulty. If He has done the greater deed of sacrificing His only Son for the forgiveness of our sins, He will certainly do all the lesser things that will bring us to glory with Him. Thus we should continually praise the Lord for His many kindnesses to us in Christ.

 
Pam Smith is the Vice President for Student Advancement at Biblical Seminary and also instructs in our counseling program in the areas of career and coaching. Email Pam at psmith@biblical.edu 

 

Written by Dan LaValla Thursday, 01 March 2012 00:00

Did you ever wonder why the Bible teaches that anger grieves the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian (Eph. 4:30-32)?

The answer lies at the root of anger in the human heart. Anger often arises from personal experiences during which one feels threatened or mistreated. In actual life-threatening situations, anger can initiate an adrenaline release that prompts the body to help a person react in self-defense and preservation. However, in situations where one’s life is not being threatened, anger comes from a prideful demand that life’s events should unfold according to one’s desired plans or that people should treat one in a desired manner or response. At its most basic level, this anger wells up when one does not get his or her own way; it is an egotistical demand to desire control where one does not actually have control, to be a god.

People typically do not desire to feel prolonged anger, but do so when they are not able to accept or adjust to undesirable circumstances or consequences.  Before joining the faculty and staff at Biblical Seminary, I had a 17-year career counseling trauma victims and their families. Anger resulting from a traumatic event is usually considered a normal response and is understandable in such situations. However, prolonged anger is destructive and even innocent victims of traumatic events want to move beyond the anger. Therefore, a recurrent theme in trauma counseling addresses how to help counselees deal with the anger that often accompanies the instability and vulnerability one experiences with a traumatic event.

When counselees desire to cease their angry outbursts, but continue to act out in anger, it is helpful to start with the old adage, “whatever or whoever angers you controls you.” By keeping a log of a counselee’s angry outbursts, written shortly after the anger subsides, patterns will emerge as to who or what caused the anger to well up. The root of anger that usually emerges from the patterns in the record often points to misdirected blame or a hypersensitivity to the realization that there is little in life that one can control and the fear that traumatic events can randomly occur at any moment (because something very bad happened to me once, it is more likely something very bad is going to happen to me again).

Therefore, if you are a person who struggles with anger, try keeping your own log of the people and events in your life that have evoked an angry outburst. Identify the false reasoning you are using to “justify” the cause of your unrighteous anger. Yield to God’s sovereignty and rest in the comfort that God does love and care for you even when unrighteous circumstances or events harm you in this life; as it is written in James 1:19-21 teaches that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Instead, “in humility we are to receive God’s word, which is able to save us.”


Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.

   

Written by Dr. David Lamb Wednesday, 29 February 2012 00:00

"Do you believe God is omni-benevolent?”

 I was on the campus of Bucknell University speaking on my book (God Behaving Badly) at an event sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  This was the first question for the Q&A time.  I had been informed beforehand that the Atheist and Agnostic club would be joining us. 

 I repeated the question back to the student, “Do you believe God is omni-benevolent?”  She responded, “No, I don’t believe in God.”  So, I guess we know where the atheists are sitting.  They took up an entire row. 

 I said, “I believe God is good, but I’m not sure I understand what you are asking.  What do you mean by ‘omni-benevolent’?” 

 I think she assumed I was just going to say, “Yes” and then she would spring her trap about a totally good God “creating” evil.  I didn’t want to do that.  My answer didn’t satisfy her, but I was trying a new tactic. 

 Jesus often responded to a question with a question, particularly when people were trying to trap him (Mark 2:7-8; 11:28-30; 12:23-26).  When the religious leaders asked about paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), he first asks, “Why do you put me to the test?”  Then after they obtain a denarius he asks, “Whose likeness is this?”  In response to their “Caesar’s”, he delivers one of the best lines in Scripture, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (I wish I were as clever as Jesus.) 

 The Bucknell Q&A session was extremely engaging and after 45 minutes, the atheists still wanted to keep talking.  I had a great time talking to about 10 atheists over the course of the next hour before I had to leave.  At the end, several atheists came up and thanked me and one even apologized for the intensity of his “colleagues.”  While I know some of the atheists felt like my questions were evasive, I honestly wanted to listen to them before responding.  Too often these types of discussions involve no genuine listening. 

 Even when Jesus’ disciples asked him a question, he replied with question (Mark 4:38-41; 6:37-38; 7:17-18; 8:4-5).  I think we need to ask more questions. 

How do you respond to questions? 


David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical. He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb.

 

   

Written by Dr. Derek Cooper Tuesday, 28 February 2012 00:00

     “That’s too much to ask,” an older Christian said to me recently during our conversation about Jesus’ weighty call of discipleship upon the believer’s life.

     “That’s not what Christianity is about,” he continued. “I go to church every Sunday, I’m not involved in any great sin, and I try to do what’s best for my family. Jesus came to take away my sin, but he did not come to make me poor and homeless.”

     The conversation above represents one of many I have had over the years with Christians. In short, everyone loves talking about Jesus. But discipleship is another matter. Isn’t discipleship only for the really radical, committed Christians?

     The theme of discipleship as a calling for all Christians looms large in the New Testament, especially in the teachings of Jesus. It is a theme that is peppered heavily throughout his parables and stories from beginning to end.  One of the first places we see this theme materialize is during the calling of Jesus’ twelve disciples. What I have always appreciated about this passage is its unadorned description of what discipleship entails, which, in Mark’s version of the story of Jesus, is simply two things: (1) being with Jesus and (2) being sent out by Jesus. As Mark explains: 

Jesus now went up to the mountain and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim the message (Mark 3:13-14). 

     Though austere and artlessly simple, a casual reading of the Gospels demonstrates that this definition of discipleship expects more than it indicates. As is well known, Jesus commands his disciples to expect persecution, rejection from the world, and even death – spiritual death most certainly, but also potentially physical death.

     In fact, when all of the potential – yet ultimately failed – stories of discipleship in the Gospels are investigated, an obvious theme appears: When discipleship fails, it is either because (a) a person refuses to be with Jesus or because (b) a person refuses to be sent out by Jesus.

     By contrast, we can explain the meaning of discipleship in more positive terms. Discipleship occurs when (a) a person accepts Jesus’ call to be with him and when (b) a person accepts Jesus’ command to be sent out by him. It really is that simple.

     Discipleship is about being pastored by Jesus and about being sent by Jesus.

     Does this describe your relationship with Jesus?

 

Dr. Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical, where he directs the LEAD MDiv program and co-directs the DMin program. His most recent book is entitled Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Manton-Thought-Puritan-History/dp/1596382139/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319153564&sr=8-1#_. See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper.

 

   

Written by Mrs. Pam Smith Monday, 27 February 2012 00:00

My friend who served at another seminary is on her way home to Jesus.

I remember how years ago she sought me out to connect as two sisters doing kingdom business. We met over lunch. There was not a hint of competitive spirit between us.  We shared a heart to see God glorified by finding ways we could serve each other.

God provided an opportunity for me to serve her first. She asked me to come to her seminary to do a couple of presentations to students on how to do an effective résumé. What a joy it was to know that I might be used to help her ministry students get employment.

She served me next by connecting me to a group of women ministry leaders.  The connection led to ministry fruit that continues to grow to this day.  She and I coordinated our schedules so that we could travel a couple of times to Florida on the same plane and I still chuckle over our silliness at the airport.  

It was my turn again.  I coached her into a new work position where I knew she would thrive. I attended her ministry open house after she successful landed the job.  I then wanted her to serve beside me in a campus ministry initiative.  But the cancer beast had begun tearing down her body and she couldn’t commit.  I wanted to hire her part-time so that she didn’t have to work a full schedule. But by that time the cancer beast had grown in power and she had to say no.

As I reflect on our relationship, I count it a privilege to have observed her peace and strong faith through the awfulness of the disease. It is nothing short of inspirational.

Safe passage, friend.


Pam Smith is the Vice President for Student Advancement at Biblical Seminary and also instructs in our counseling program in the areas of career and coaching. Email Pam at psmith@biblical.edu

 

   

Written by Sam Logan Thursday, 23 February 2012 00:00

Again (like yesterday), the answer is “yes.”

But the trick is to define such boldness in a way that is biblical, in a way that is “missional. “ Once again, I offer Jonathan Edwards’s words as at least the beginning of a definition:

From the Introduction to Section VIII of Part III of the Treatise on Religious Affections

Truly gracious affections differ from those affections that are false and delusive, in that they tend to, and are attended with the lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper of Jesus Christ; or in other words, they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness and mercy, as appears in Christ. 

From later in that same section: 

There is a pretended boldness for Christ that arises from no better principle than pride. A man may be forward to expose himself to the dislike of the world, and even to provoke their displeasure, out of pride.  For it is the nature of spiritual pride to cause men to seek distinction and singularity; and so oftentimes to set themselves at war with those whom they call carnal, that they may be more highly exalted among their party. 

 The Scripture knows no true Christians , of a sordid, selfish, cross, and contentious spirit.  Nothing can be a greater absurdity, than a morose, hard, close, high-spirited, spiteful, true Christian.

 And exactly why is that?

 Behold Jesus Christ . . . How did He show His holy boldness and valor?  Not in the exercise of any fiery passions, not in fierce and violent speeches, vehemently declaiming against the intolerable wickedness of opposers, [not in] giving them their own in plain terms; but in not opening his mouth when afflicted and oppressed, in going as a lamb to the slaughter, and, as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, not opening his mouth; praying that the father would forgive his cruel enemies, because they knew not what they did; nor shedding others’ blood, but with an all-conquering patience and love, shedding his own.    

How wonderful it would be if the evangelical Christian church in America were known for its “love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy.”

How wonderful – and pleasing to God - if I were known for this!

 
Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical.  He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan

   

Written by Dr. Samuel Logan Wednesday, 22 February 2012 00:00

The answer to this question is, “Yes, of course.”

But the exact nature of that place is often misunderstood and the best expression of the correct understanding of that place is given by that missional theologian par excellence, Jonathan Edwards.

Here is what Edwards says:

Many persons seem to be quite mistaken concerning the nature of Christian fortitude. It is an exceeding diverse thing from a brutal fierceness, or the boldness of the beasts of prey. True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind; and in steadfastly and freely exerting, and following good affections and dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear, or the opposition of enemies. 

But the passions that are restrained and kept under, in the exercise of this Christian strength and fortitude, are those very passions that are vigorously and violently exerted in a false boldness for Christ. And those affections that are vigorously exerted in true fortitude, are those Christian, holy affections that are directly contrary to them. 

Though Christian fortitude appears, in withstanding and counteracting the enemies that are without us; yet it much more appears, in resisting and suppressing the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest enemies, and have greatest advantage against us.

The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more, than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world. The Scripture seems to intimate that true fortitude consists chiefly in this: Prov. 16:32, "He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." [Emphasis added]

For further explanation of what “missional boldness for Christ” looks like, I commend the remainder of Section VIII of Part III of Edwards’s Treatise on Religious Affections

How wonderful it would be if the evangelical Christian church in America were known for its “holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.”

How wonderful – and pleasing to God - if I were known for this!


Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical.  He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan

   

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