7 post-it-sized tips I learned at seminary

I had the wonderful privilege of spending three years studying theology at George Whitefield College, tucked away at the tip of Africa. The college is situated right on the beach front. Seriously- this was the view from the the library:

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I learned rich and wonderful things in those three years, but some of the things that have stayed with me most clearly were not things from textbooks, but off-the-cuff comments from teachers who had walked with God far longer than I had. I made mental post-it notes, and they are still as luminous in my mind now as they were years ago.

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Christ, or Messiah, means ‘anointed one’, and priests and kings were anointed. Substituting “King Jesus” for “Christ Jesus” in my reading drew my attention to the fact that Christ was not Jesus’ last name, but in fact his title: one of great honor and esteem. Doc Newby was right: making that switch breathed new life into reading the New Testament.

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Almost all the “you” words in the New Testament are plural you’s rather than singular you’s. The Southern “all y’all” expresses it beautifully: the epistles are written to believers corporately, not believers alone. This does not diminish my personal responsibility at all, though. If anything, it heightens it: we pray together, believe together, suffer together, raise the armor of God together. All y’all.

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Therefore, take note in bibles where the paragraphs are divided up with headings. If the paragraph begins with “therefore”, you might have to pick up a bit earlier to understand the context.

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This was a watershed one for me: not all “ifs” are the same. Some are zero conditional, meaning that the IF statement is always tied to the THEN one (if you stand in the rain, then you will get wet). Others have more risk involved: the IF statement is necessary, but not sufficient, to bring about the THEN one (if you study for an exam, then you will pass).

This made the world of difference in studying Romans 8: “if you are led by the spirit of God, you are children of God.” I had always read that as a conditional if and been afraid that I wasn’t spirit-led enough to be considered God’s child. It was a glory-hallelujah moment to realize that this was a zero-conditional if: “if you are led by the Spirit of God (and you ARE!), then you are also always and forever His child”. Woo hoo!

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Yes, there is joy and peace and hope in Christ. But true believers still mourn and lament. Just look at the Psalms.

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What sense this made of so much of the Old Testament prophets! So many chapters were about God explaining and interpreting their current predicaments in light of their covenantal behavior (forth-telling), and had nothing to do with the future. So helpful in understanding what the prophets were doing! Poor old Jeremiah….

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This one, from our principal David Seccombe, had me thinking for weeks. Jesus’ words were so often hard to understand: cryptic, in parables, couched in Hebrew idiom. Dr Seccombe’s firm words reminded me that if I called Jesus “king”, I dare not skip over his words because they were hard. As his follower and servant, it was my responsibility to keep on seeking understanding.

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Amidst the hours of serious bible study, I treasured this advice. Sometimes, we read to study and understand and wrestle with the truth. But sometimes, we read to make our hearts happy.

Both are good. Both are needed.

And the post-it’s helped me with both. Hope they help you too 🙂

25 thoughts on “7 post-it-sized tips I learned at seminary

  1. Thanks for writing about some of the exegetical principles that have shaped your understanding of the Word! These are all so important, and confirm my confidence in your interpretation of–and your commitment to–the scripture. Number 7 brought to mind another blog that I love to follow, and that I think you might, too. Here is a link to just one of Lois Tverberg’s articles–one of the latest examples of how she seeks to understand, write about and share with others the “idiom of her King”: http://ourrabbijesus.com/articles/jesus-jewish-logic-measure-for-measure/

  2. also, almost on #5 – Anger (righteous anger) is also ok
    Also read the Psalms – we can be angry at the way that the world rejects our King

  3. The thing I treasure most about my time in Bible college is the fact that it got me studying the Bible itself, not just books about the Bible. A close second is that, at least indirectly, it led me to the lady who became my wife!

  4. This is SO good! I especially liked (learned from) #4. I spent many hours one day studying all of “If you…” verses in the Bible. Unlike the example you cited from Romans 8, most of the “If you’s” are conditional; “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord…” – they involve us making a conscious choice. But verses like your example automatically apply to us after we’ve made that choice. Do I have it right?

  5. I count 8 tips, not 7. Is that last one a bonus on top of the ones you promised in the post title, Bronwyn? In any case, they’re all great. Thanks for bringing us such great truths in such manageable bites.

    • I could say I am being like Solomon, who said three things he has noticed, no four….
      But the truth is this is what happens when you start a blog post one week and then finish it the next with a splitting headache. A gold star to you for your keen editorial eye!

  6. Really appreciated tip 8, as it resonates so clearly with how I feel about reading.
    As an immature youngster, I wrote what I thought were my final exams, and told myself that I was never going to study again.
    Perhaps I was tired and overwhelmed?
    Now, I read on awakening, during the day, before sleeping at night, and when I have insomnia, and I treasure this wonderful occupation.
    Studying brings welcome knowledge and greater wisdom, and reading for pleasure widens my experience of life vicariously.

  7. Really good advice. I”m doing a Bible-in-a-year curriculum that I just love and have come around to Isaiah and he’s been doing a lot of “forth-telling.” Sometimes he switches between future-truth and present-truth so swiftly that I get confused…

  8. Pingback: Courage to find Significance in the Every Day | bronwyn's corner

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