My husband and I started a new journey in January (no, not the journey of parenthood) – the Seminary journey. This journey looks different for everyone. For us, it meant leaving jobs, family and friends and moving 12 hours away. (It also meant having a winter with a record snowfall of more than 12 total inches!)
In all of the craziness, changes and new adventures we’ve faced since January, I’ve learned an important key to growing in wisdom and knowledge. Do you want to know more about who God is? Do you want to understand what the early church stood for? Do you want to know if the Bible is the true, inerrant Word of God? Do you want to understand how to apply Scripture in a Biblical Counseling session? Here’s the key: read.
It really is that simple. Read. Pick up a book and read.
This semester I had the great task of reading around 3,000 total pages from various texts and resources. I won’t lie and say it was a piece of cake (or that I finished every book on time), but halfway through the semester I realized that the majority of what I was learning wasn’t coming from course lectures (although I think Southern Seminary has the BEST professors). The majority of my learning has come through my reading.
I value sitting in the classroom, learning and interacting with some of the best scholars and professors, but I also realize that not everyone has the ability or calling to attend Seminary. BUT we all have the ability to learn, test our faith and grow in wisdom and knowledge.
I want to encourage you; you can be a scholar, too. Just pick up a book and read.
Below, I’ve included a few books that I’ve enjoyed reading this semester (my two favorite books are starred). Be on the lookout for more book reviews on WordSlingers!
Books on Biblical Counseling:
Books on Theology:
- Systematic Theology By John M. Frame
- Systematic Theology By Wayne Grudem
- *Knowing God By J. I. Packer
- Erasing Hell By Francis Chan
Books on Learning Greek:
- Learn to Read New Testament Greek By David Alan Black
“The problem, of course, is that we are never made deeply joyful by the Gospel because we have never been deeply crushed by it.”
In this book, the authors (Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson) not only dissect how to counsel someone else in gospel-centered counseling, but they also apply truths for any reader’s life.
Do you get angry or impatient in the express line at the grocery store when the person in front of you has more than the limited amount of items? Then you need more of Jesus. Do you get upset when someone cuts you off in traffic? Then you need more of Jesus.
This book begins by reminding us that we are more sinful than we think or understand. God hates sin, and so should we. However, that is not the end of the story. Jesus lived a perfect life and took your sins and my sins upon Himself so that by believing in Him we could be saved. That’s the Good News.
The authors continually lead their reader back to the Gospel, not for gaining self-righteousness on our part, but to remind us to place God back on the throne. They point out that in the Old Testament the Israelites were only required to mourn and think about their sin for one day out of the week, and the rest of the week they were to seek out the glory of God.
In the same way, we should not beat ourselves up about our sins. In doing that, the authors explain that we place ourselves as the center of our lives. Instead, we should focus on God’s glory in light of our sins.
The subtitle for the book is “connecting broken people to the love of Christ,” and that is exactly what this book does. I began reading the book thinking that I would learn how to counsel broken people, and while I did learn about how to apply the Gospel to certain situations, that was not all I learned. I also learned that I need to remember the Gospel each day in my own life. It is when I don’t focus more on Jesus that I focus more on myself.
“Counsel to the Cross” is packed with lots of useful explanations on how to apply the Gospel to various issues. If you are interested in the Gospel, counseling or your life, I would highly encourage you to read this book.
I’ve been thinking about how many articles I have read this week about the “Top weddings in 2014” or the “Top events in 2014.” I’ve heard about the 2014 word of the year (culture, if you didn’t know). I’ve heard the trending topics on Facebook and the most retweeted tweets on Twitter. But is that really what matters most during this Christmas season?
I’ve decided to share a story with you. A story of hope, love and truth. A story for people all over the world in every single possible situation. Whether rich, poor, old, young, man or woman, happy or sad, this story is for you. It all began with one young teenaged girl, Mary, who led a normal life like you or me. *Personal emphasis added throughout the story.
— — — — —
She lay awake, wondering if the angel should return. She had so many emotions stirring within her. Willing. Scared. Humble. Curious. Faithful. Anxious. She had been playing the angel’s message over and over in her head.
“Mary, do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”
Yet, here she lay. Alone in her room inside her parents house. She, a young Jewish woman, had been chosen to be the mother to the Son of God.
“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
A son. Jesus. Son of the Most High. King over the house of Jacob – forever. That was a lot to take in. She had never been married. She had never been intimate with a man. How did Gabriel explain it?
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
In all her wonder and humility, Mary had not thought about Joseph. Her betrothed. How could she tell him she was pregnant? What would he think of her?
It was only a few months from now that they should be married. This time last year Mary was preparing for the betrothal ceremony. Dressed in her best, Mary had stood next to Joseph – strong, handsome Joseph – at the alter as he recited a vow to her. This vow bound them together until death. What a joy it was to her family to have Mary’s future settled. The contracts were signed, and the engagement period was set for 12 months. Preparations for the week-long wedding celebration had already started.
In a few months Joseph, her bridegroom, will come for her, for Mary. How will he take the news of her divine conception? Will he believe her? What was the worst that could happen in a divorce? The worst – death. If Joseph reports that Mary is an adulterer, she could be stoned to death. But Mary trusted the angel when he said:
“Nothing will be impossible with God”
Surely, God will protect Mary and His own son. She knew she would tell him soon, but decided to trust in the Lord. So Mary, a servant of the Lord, became pregnant by the Holy Spirit and rejoiced to the Lord.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
* * *
After the angel appeared to Mary, she went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth for three months, until she knew the Holy Spirit had come upon her. Once she returned, Joseph was planning when to make his visit to Mary to take her home as his wife when he found out. Mary is pregnant.
Pregnant with someone else’s baby. How could she have betrayed him like that? Joseph could not believe it! He had watched Mary from afar, filled with grace and poise. her faith looked genuine, and her love for God devout.
Joseph had waited and honored the allotted 12 months for Mary during the betrothal. He had spent most of his time preparing the house for Mary. He wanted her to feel right at home. But now everything has changed. Mary changed. He loved her, and he did not want to see harm come to her or her family. But she had broken her vow, his trust and his heart, and Joseph could not marry such a woman, so he planned to secretly divorce her as was the custom for their engagement.
But as lay in bed and began thinking about a secret divorce, an angel appeared!
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife.”
But she slept with another man, how can Joseph accept this? This child is not his own.
That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
God’s son? My Mary is carrying God’s beloved son? But why?
“for he will save his people from their sins.”
Joseph, a man of noble character and great faith, believed the angel and continued his plans to marry Mary. Joseph understood that even by taking Mary to be his wife, he could not be intimate with her until after the birth of Jesus. And he soon walked as the bridegroom to take his bride.
* * *
Due to a census being taken, Joseph took his wife to the home of his family. Riding a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was not Mary’s ideal travel situation so close to her due date. Hot, dirty, sweaty and hungry from their travels, Mary could finally see the outskirts of the town of Bethlehem. Mary could also feel waves of pain overtake her body as they rode on.
As they reached Bethlehem, Mary noticed how crowded the streets were and began to worry about finding a room for them to rest while they registered for the census. As they passed home after home, Mary realized they were running out of options. They were going to have to sleep in the street! Exhausted and in pain, Mary followed Joseph to the last inn in the town only to hear that all the rooms were taken.
What was God’s plan for the census? Did he know Mary and Joseph would have no other options for sleeping? Just as she began complaining internally, the inn keeper told them about his stable. Below the inn hidden away in the rock was a stable with a few animals and hay for a bed and a structure to keep them sheltered from the night.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
— — — — —
The birth of Jesus came about in the most unusual way.
Jesus, the son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was born as a baby in a stable and placed in a manger. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know very many kings who were born in one of the lowliest places for the very reason to show Jesus is for even the lowliest of people.
I hope that for some of you, you are reading this story as one you’ve heard many times but that it comes to life, and for some that it might be your first time to hear the story. If it is, I want to encourage you. This is only the small beginning of a much bigger story.
Learn the full story by going to http://findithere.com/.
Have you ever picked up a stray animal? One that was soft, cute and looking for love? My husband and I found a sweet dog last night. It started off that we saw her roaming as we drove through our neighborhood. Then my husband got out of the car and whistled for her. But in a brief moment of panic, jumped back in the car fearing she could have rabies. After seeing that she didn’t have crazy eyes, my husband began coaxing her back toward our house.
She’s currently in our backyard as we search for her family. She’s adorable, loving and big. As of this moment we haven’t named her, but I think it is a tie between Olaf and Bear.
It got me thinking. We treat stray, four-legged animals with love and care, but how do we treat ‘stray’ people? Let me define stray. I’m talking about those who wonder into our lives looking for love and care. We can meet them at school, at work or even at church.
My family has taken in a few strays over the years. Friends my brothers or I drug home and my parents ended up adopted. Not only did they come to our home, but we drug them to church. A church that was inviting and that loved and cared for them. And at church, several of them found Jesus; they made the decision to believe and changed their eternity.
I heard a quote the other night, paraphrased it said, “People lead other people to Jesus.” If you are a person (that should be all of you), and if you have people in your life (you should have at least one), then you have a mission.
Hebrews 13:1-2 “Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.“
Do you ever face moments when you feel like you have more questions than answers? Or do you have moments when you have one question, but that answer sparks more questions?
I am in this place. A place where all my questions seem to revolve around the future. I can’t tell you what I’m cooking for dinner tonight let alone answers to the future five days, months or even years from now.
Yet, in the midst of my confusion God has brought some clarity.
My calling isn’t circumstantial.
God has called His people to several things, and He has given more specific dreams to few. I am blessed to be one of the few who has been given a specific direction by God. Don’t let that statement fool you. I’m not saying I have it all figured out. I don’t. He hasn’t revealed the bigger picture, yet. But I’ve realized that the dream He has given me and the passions He has filled me with do not change based on my ever-changing circumstances.
God has called me to be obedient in the midst of my circumstances.
I struggle with this idea. My husband would tell you I am a Type-A personality. I like my chicks in a row before they hatch, so to say. But life rarely (okay, very rarely) happens that way. But I have come to rest in the revelation of a future dream by tending to the present passions that He has given me.
I’m learning that it is not about rushing to find my own way to accomplish His purpose. However, my job is to grow my passions, talents and even areas of weakness that will better equip me for His plan. And I can do that while I wait. In fact, I think that is my purpose while I wait. To do what I can with the resources and tools He has provided for me to be prepared when God says, “Go.”
This week, ask yourself. Do you walk in faith and ask God to bless your steps, or do you wait for God to bless your steps before you walk by faith?