What is life like in seminary? Here are my reflections + 5 life principles I learned after a year of seminary education.
After several years of studying the Bible inductively in BSF and being reared by the expository preaching at GCF, I still find myself in awe and overwhelmed with God’s Word. We can never settle with what we already know. In school (like I have shared with a lot of you), there are a lot of things I needed to unlearn and that is very humbling.
Upon entering seminary, we were told that we’ll have to put off the pre-conditioning we’ve grown with. Now that doesn’t mean that our previous understanding of the Bible is entirely bad or wrong. There’s just that reality that there are certain positions we’ve come to accept as true but when you get to the nitty gritty of the text, you’ll be surprised that the original intended meaning isn’t so similar with how a lot of people have been interpreting it today. We have to keep in mind that when people read and interpret the Bible, biases come along with it–intentionally or unintentionally. These biases may have been ingrained in us through culture, education and the church.
A common mistake we make is taking one verse alone and interpreting it without the passages before and after. There’s nothing wrong with using verses from the Bible and making them a personal, motivational reminder. However, we have to make sure that we know the context of the passage and the book. For example, a verse that is often misused is Matthew 18:20:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
When you look at this verse, it does look very encouraging in terms of prayer. So many times, I’ve heard this recited in sermons and prayer gatherings. The passage in Matthew however, talks about dealing with sin or conflict in the church. It discusses rebuking a fellow believer in private about the sin.
If the fellow believer takes heed, then “you have won him over”–>this phrase can also take on so many meanings. “Won him over” meaning you won the argument or “won him over” meaning you have won his confidence? In the literal translation from Greek to English, it reads “you gained your fellow believer.” So the “winning the argument” angle is not what the passage meant.
This is just an example of the many verses taken out of context. I would love to share more but each verse might require a separate blog entry each. 😀
LEVELING UP MY HERMENEUTICS SKILLS
I’m amazed that with just a few verses, you can unpack a ton of things. Context. Main clause. Subordinate clauses. Key words. The words in the original language. Did the author use the word the same way we use it today? The intended audience—who were they? Where were they located? What was life like for them at that time? So many questions. We were doing termal, grammatical, literary and contextual analysis yesterday when my classmate David told me “Nasa exegete talaga yung trabaho no? Yung exegete yung mag-tatanong, siya din hahanap ng sagot sa text.”
And it made me think, as one person I can only ask so many questions. I cannot ask all the possible questions that may arise from the text and THAT IS HUMBLING. For me, it means that as a community of believers studying the Bible, team work is essential. One cannot do it alone. Our pastors, before they preach their sermon, present their outline and manuscript to a group of other pastors and church leaders and they discuss the text, the interpretation and what it means for us in the present day. In school, I like that we are also usually in groups when we do our Bible exercises for it broadens the way we observe and interact with the text, allowing us to see things from a different perspective.
There’s still more for me to learn and unpack. The Bible is truly a wonderful book and our God–though He is infinite and incomprehensible is definitely KNOWABLE.
God bless you! Until the next seminary diary…when I finish with my reading assignments! 🙂
Saturday is usually ministry day for me, except if I have trips, workshops to attend/teach or events to host. Our leaders’ meeting for our Bible Study Fellowship evening women’s class in Ortigas is held Saturday mornings at 6:30. We prepare for class night, have separate leadership development sessions and we get to engage in God’s Word by sharing in the discussion questions and homiletics.
*Thanks to my fellow GL Riva for taking and sharing these photos!
For this particular Saturday, we had our leaders’ fellowship (we do this once a month) so we had time to catch-up and enjoy delicious finger food. 🙂
Following immediately was the launch of S.H.E., the support group for single young professional women in GCF. We invited blogger, speaker and homeschooling advocate Joy Tan-chi Mendoza to speak. She happens to be the niece of Tita Mina, one of the core members of the GCF Ortigas Women’s Ministry team. She brought along all five of her children, who she says are always with her and Edric (her husband) whenever they have speaking engagements.
Joy spoke on Identity: The P’s of God’s Best Life for You (Colossians 3:1-17):
1) Know your Purpose
2) Obey His Principles
3) Order Your Priorities
4) Elevate Him with Your Pursuits and Passions
5) Discover His Pleasure and Peace
Sorry if the bullet points are bitin. I tried to take down notes but I was busy making sure the camera was running well and we were still within the allotted time. The ladies looked forward to the QandA session where Joy answered questions about singlehood, homeschooling her kids, growing up, her background, married life and faith. Watch the VLOG below for more!
After the launch, I had a bit of a break so I changed to more comfy clothes. Youth worship followed at 5pm and then we also had the Youth Leaders Mentoring Session facilitated by Kuya Ave Gaspar. He taught us how to use the Precepts material for our discipleship meetings. Precepts is in-depth Bible study which challenges you to delve deep into God’s Word without the use of commentaries. You focus only on the Bible and let it speak to you as you break down the passages and do word studies.
I realized I’ve already written too much. 🙂 Go watch the VLOG below and make sure you SUBSCRIBE and give it a thumbs up! Thanks and God bless you!
Sometimes, the simplest Bible study methods bring forth the most enriching one-on-one meetings with the Lord. I have been using the SPECS/SPECK method for about two years now and even if I’ve been going through BSF, inductive study and homiletics, this method never fails to let God’s Word speak where and when I need it most. SPECS/SPECK is an acrononym for:
|S||Sin/s to avoid||S||Sin/s to avoid|
|P||Promise/s to claim||P||Promise/s to claim|
|E||Example/s to follow||E||Example/s to follow|
|C||Command/s to obey||C||Command/s to obey|
|S||Stumbling blocks (or others use Significant Truth)||K||Knowledge about God|
When you are studying a verse (better yet, a passage) during your quiet time, try using this method and as always, begin with prayer—ask God to speak to you through His Word. If there are sins you need to be confronted with, if there are examples you need to follow in your own life. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. At times, personal Bible study can bring about discomfort and in my experience, that usually means that there is something being challenged in me—an area of compromise, a sin I need to confess and repent from or it could be a challenge to obey and trust Him more.
My passage for today is 1 Kings 11, which talks about Solomon’s downward spiral because he allowed himself to be led astray by his pagan wives. Imagine, the man deemed the wisest king of Israel, backsliding because of the compromises he allowed into his life? My initial reading of the passage made me notice the compromises he made:
- Intermarriage for political alliances
- Trusting in these alliances instead of depending on God
- Infidelity to the Lord
- Not using the godly wisdom made available to him to make wise, God-glorifying choices
Now let’s use the SPECK method:
SINS TO AVOID
- Solomon intermarried with nations God prohibited (a clear act of disobedience)
- Solomon loved many (foreign) women
- Solomon let his wives lead him astray
- His heart turned after other gods (infidelity)
- His heart was not FULLY DEVOTED TO THE LORD HIS GOD
- Did evil in the eyes of the Lord
- Did not follow the Lord COMPLETELY
PROMISES TO CLAIM
I don’t want to claim these promises as mine. Although I know that the Lord has many promises in the Bible for those who put their faith in Him, we also have to be aware that some promises in the Bible are given to SPECIFIC PEOPLE MENTIONED in the narrative. Say for example, we cannot claim the promise given to Abraham “I will make you the Father of many nations.” That promise was SPECIFICALLY given to him.
In this passage, I see God fulfilling His promises on the account of David, even if Solomon spiraled downward.
- There were still two tribes left for David
- Solomon reigned until his death
- Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) succeeded him as king
Promises to Jeroboam:
If you do whatever I command you and obey, do what is right in my eyes, I will build an enduring dynasty, I will give Israel to you.
EXAMPLES TO FOLLOW
- Despite David’s sins, God remembered him and thought of him dearly because he was after God’s heart
- David obeyed God’s commands and decrees (v. 34-36)
COMMANDS TO OBEY
Walk in obedience, do what is right in My (God’s) eyes, obey My (God’s) decrees and commands as David did
KNOWLEDGE ABOUT GOD
- The Lord remembers and rewards the faithfulness of his servants (David)
- The Lord was still very gracious to Solomon (on the account of David) despite his disobedience and idolatry and did not take the kingdom away from him
- The Lord appeared to Solomon TWICE. MINDBLOWN. So Solomon had THAT PRIVILEGE, yet he still went astray.
- The Lord can raise up LEADERS AND ADVERSARIES. Jeroboam did not have Solomon’s noble birth, yet God made him a king. God can thward systems that have been put into place just because HE IS GOD, HE IS SOVEREIGN AND HIS PLANS WILL PREVAIL.
- The Lord is MERCIFUL. He could have killed Solomon or punished him severely but the guy still reigned until his death. I wonder if Solomon ever repented when he was faced with his adversaries. Did he call out to God?
PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you would always remind me to rely on you and not on my own strength and capabilities. Seek my heart Lord, and see any offensive way in me. Bring to mind compromises that I need to confess and repent from. Help me to JOYFULLY OBEY YOUR COMMANDS, to be FAITHFUL and like David, RUN AFTER YOUR HEART. Amen.