Year 1 Complete

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The Lord has been abundantly gracious to lead us to the completion of our first academic year. He has provided a warm place to live, a lovely new church family, and many new friends. Westminster Theological Seminary now feels more like a home away from home. So far, year one of seminary has been a great experience.

Words can not express what a huge blessing these past months have been. Silas is growing strong and speaking more words and opinions everyday. Natalie is doing well and at her work at the resterant…really well and enjoys the nature of the work. The Lord seems to have given her favor in the eyes of her fellow servers and the management. Our time together has been well spent and we seem to have grown closer together through this academic year. Even though I loved my job as UC Davis the stress compared with the Westminster M.Div program is equally high but not the same. I enjoy the Westminster stress more than the UC Davis stress…I’m not sure if that makes any sense but there it is.

Natalie’s visit to California went well and by God’s grace Natalie’s mother’s surgery went well. And while Natalie was away Silas and I had the chance to make some great father-son memories. Some fun memories and some not so fun.

Natalie is now involved in the music ministry at Trinity and I am participating as a pastoral intern. Thank you all for your prayers and if you wish to serve and encourage us please simply let us know either by text or with a phone call that you are praying for us.

P.S. – Due to a few requests here is where we have been and what we are looking at next semester:

It is almost unreal to think how fast and see how much material has been covered in this past year:

First academic year completed only by God’s grace…thank you for your prayers!

Intro to Apologetics, with William Edger
The Ancient Church, with Carl Trueman
Orientation to Ministerial Formation, with Timothy Witmer
Prolegomena to Theology, with David Garner
Mentored Ministry Integration (case studies), with multiple professors
Gospel Communication (sermon prep and present), with Mark Salade
Church Growth and Church Planting, with Bruce Finn
Doctrine of God, with Scott Oliphant
Counseling in the local Church, with Mike Emlet
Mission of the Church (missiology), with Mark Sarasino
Medieval Church, with Carl Truman

…and here is what we are looking at in the Summer and Fall 2015:
Summer:
Greek 1, with Brandon Szerlip

Fall:
The Reformation, with Carl Trueman
Greek 2, with Brandon Szerlip
Intro to the New Testament, with Brandon Crowe
Expository Skills and Evaluation, with Richard Hughes
Church Dynamics and Pastoral Practice, with Tim Witmer

I am looking forward to next semester’s classes!

Finally please pray a praise for God’s provisions through two grants that have been awarded. I am prohibited to talk of them in detail, but I can call you to rejoice with us!

Pray for ISIS leaders to become Christians

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Today is an age of both great peace and great terror. We Christians in America live in great peace compared to the terror our brothers live in other nations – particularity those in ISIS territory. ISIS is an increasingly popular and powerful Islamic terrorist group. Some of you have heard of the butchering of Christians that ISIS broadcasted about a week ago, among other later grotesque broadcasts (murdering of women and children).
America and other nations are predicting that its power is growing as followers from Europe and USA join their cause (to have a pure Islamic country and the death of Christianity). It is also predicted that this war with ISIS will continue for years – not months to come.
Now that we have gotten a splash of cold water in our face and we begin to wake up to the realities most Christians face daily, you might be asking yourself; “What do I do to help?”.
I believe the answer to that question is – first we must pray!
Today Muslim leaders are turning to Christianity. Most of these have encountered God through some miraculous intervention, often in the form of visions or dreams. By the means of prayer and God’s people:
• More than 6,000 new churches have been planted among Muslims in 18 different countries.
• Hundreds of former Sheikhs and Imams, now Jesus followers, are boldly leading great movements of Muslims out of Islam.
• Forty‐five different “unreached” Muslim people groups, who a few years ago had no access to God’s Word, now have over 3,000 new churches among them.

Christians we must believe in the power of prayer and pray for our Muslim neighbors – both in the city and in the world. The organizing of Christians into focused intercessory prayer groups is vital. We must lead others into greater prayer ministry. All‐night prayer meetings, prayer walks through Muslim villages and towns, and even email and text messages should be utilized to organized on behalf of Muslims.

If you take time to take a closer look at some of the Muslim people groups you will see widespread disillusionment and discontentment with Islam. Many Muslims find no assurance of paradise in the Qur’an. They are searching for the God who answers prayer, seeking a personal, loving relationship with God that is absent in Islam. The primary strategy for reaching Muslim seekers is prayer, Bible study and obedience‐based discipleship. Discipleship represents relationships with God, Christ, and other disciples.

Make intercessory prayer the highest priority. When a leader was killed like Ben Laden another arose just as bad, and the cycle continued. Today the leader of ISIS is known to be Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. He reminds us that we are in a spiritual war so let us engage with prayer. Pray for the conversion of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, that he might come to faith in Isa al Masih (the Qur’anic term for Jesus the Messiah) as His God and redeemer. If God could save a sinner like you and me then He can do the same for Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Let us add him to our prayer list and see what God will do.

isis leaders

Porn, Ariel Castro, and Your Sexuality

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In light of the recent turn of events I would like to take the opportunity to shed some light on a very serious topic. I will in no way exhaust it but simply spark a thought.

The recent discovery of three young women (Michele Knight, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus) found at the house of Ariel Castro’s in Cleveland, Ohio,  have gotten everyone asking “why?”. Why would someone do something like this? Why did he admit it to himself and was even willing to kill himself and yet he did not turn himself in nor did he seek help? There are these and many more questions that we ask when something like this happens.

I do not claim to have the answers all these questions but we should still not neglect to think about how does one make sense of such things. In the recent years we have been able to see that there is a strong effect of pornography on the brain. William M. Struthers, associate professor of psychology at Wheaton College. ” Knowing how it is wired together and where it is sensitive can help us understand why pornography affects people the way it does.” Here are 9 things you should know about pornography affects the brain: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/05/08/9-things-you-should-know-about-pornography-and-the-brain/?comments#comments To summarize the article; porn will 1) hijack your brain, 2) it is highly addictive, 3) it leaves you unsatisfied, 4) desensitizes, 5) ruins sexual character, 6 ) deforms sexual appetite, 7 ) leaves you dysfunctional, 8 ) makes you sexually reliant, 9) demoralizes and bastardizes you every time you watch it.

The topic that I want to talk just briefly is not just porn but the connection between porn and rape.  Today Ariel Castro was charged with multiple four charges of kidnapping and three counts of rape. Castro later told investigators he is a “sex addict.” http://abcnews.go.com/US/ariel-castro-cleveland-kidnap-suspect-face-death-penalty/story?id=19139911

The claim I would like to make is that he was not born a “sex addict” but rather that a number of choices he made throughout his life lead him to be that man that he is exposed to be today. I would even go as far as to say that he probably was a “porn addict” before he became a “sex addict”.  His excessive exposures to porn most likely lead him to demean women and reassert their treatment as objects feeding his lust. I make this claim because there is a connection between pornography and violence against women.

 

Pornography and Rape: Is There a Connection?

http://www.mecasa.org/joomla/images/pdfs/media_and_pornography/sexoffenders_pornography.pdf

  • The literature in this area is substantial and growing. A few examples follow: In a comparative study of rape rates in the USA, Scandinavia, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, Court (1984) found a connection between the availability of pornography and the level of rape. He specifically refutes earlier studies that purported to show otherwise, particularly in relation to Australia, where the uniform crime data: (actually support the case for an increase [in rape rates after the liberalisation of pornography] quite convincingly (Court 1984, p. 158).
  • In the USA, the eight major men’s magazines (Chic, Club, Gallery, Genesis, Hustler, Oui, Playboy and Penthouse) have sales that are five times higher per capita in Alaska and Nevada than in other states such as North Dakota¾and rape rates that are six times higher per capita in Alaska and Nevada than North Dakota. Overall a fairly strong correlation was found between rape and circulation rates in the fifty states, even with controls for potential confounding variables, such as region, climate, propensity to report rape and police practices (Milne-Home 1991; Baron & Straus 1985 cited in United States Attorney-General’s Commission on Pornography 1986, p. 944-5).
  • Exposure to pornography of less than five hours over a six-week period resulted in a halving of sentences thought appropriate for rape (Malamuth 1984). Malamuth (1986) links pornography to the level of hostility felt towards women and, further, finds the level of hostility is a significant predictor of sexual violence.
  • In New South Wales, in the period 1975-91, a time during which pornography has become increasingly available, there has been a 90.6 per cent increase in the level of rape (Categories 1-3 Sexual Assault) (New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research 1991; New South Wales Police Statistics Unit 1988-89)
  • In Hawaii in 1974, restrictions were placed on the sale of pornographic material. Rape figures fell for the following two years. The restrictions were then lifted, and rape immediately increased. (United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation 1973 −78); and
  • In Oklahoma County, ‘adult’ stores were closed in 1985, and a 25 per cent decrease in the rape rate occurred over the next five years 1985−90. In the remainder of Oklahoma, there was no such law and no decrease in the rape rate (Macy 1991).

Today we live in a new world with more acceptability to porn and demoralized society. In a society that is no-longer ashamed of being porn addicts but rather proclaim it with pride.

The proper response to the Castro case is not to lock up and turn off the lights, but get up and

1) cry out for God’s mercy,

2) talk to your children about the perversion and dangers of porn and lust,

3) declare war on the porn industry.You don’t have to be political if you don’t want to but if you or someone you know watches porn then stop that behavior at the heart! We must fight lust. We must declare war on sin! Stop supporting the porn industry. Stop supporting men like Ariel Castro. Stop acting like Ariel Castro before it is too late. Start looking at women with respect and love. Start fearing God. Start practicing self control.

This week has been a good reminder that our sins will find us out and although not every “porn/sex addict” will be exposed like Ariel Castro, there will come a day when all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and on that day it will be too late for change and too late for any hope whatsoever. So Christian, if your struggling with porn today, repent afresh and confess your sins, man up, mature up, and live up to the name of “Christian.” Either you start fighting porn or stop calling yourself a Christian. To the unbeliever come and believe because hope, liberation, and salvation is found in Christ. There is no sin that is too big or too vile that Jesus Christ can not forgive.