Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Vows, Prayer, Fasting & Offerings: Resolving To Do the Will and Work of God

During a recent chapel message on Psalm 119:105-112, Dr. Joseph Pipa Jr. highlighted the role of taking vows before the Lord to bolster one's resolve, with the gracious help of God, to do His will as laid out in His Precepts. 

It won’t be long before many will be making resolutions they suppose will improve their lives in the coming year. It’s axiomatic that most will fail in their resolve, as they are largely based on finite human will power. The great preacher Jonathan Edwards once compiled a list of 70 amazing resolutions aimed at becoming more Christ-like. It is likely that he did quite well in keeping them, although he made clear in the preamble: "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake."

In the past few months, President Pipa has been encouraging our seminarians, faculty and staff to revive the practice of fasting with prayer. The moral decay of our culture in so many areas of life prompted this new call. We have been praying about the cultural rot and the state of our world and nation, for our own spiritual growth, for revival of the church, for a new generation of godly pastors and preachers, and more. We would like to ask you to join in this effort by resolving to fast and pray regularly about these things. Most people are quick to pray when a sudden crisis falls upon them or their nation. It seems to be time to adopt the mindset that what we are facing as Christians is rapidly reaching the crisis point.

Among our new students this year is Curt Straeter, who shared his thoughts on this subject, saying, “GPTS continually has significant, holistic impacts on my personal walk and preparation for ministry, of which the Psalm 119 sermon series and the days of prayer and fasting are only a couple. The reliance on and obedience to the Word of God directly resulted in applications of increased prayer and fasting in my own life, and I pray for even greater fervent obedience and prayer in our churches to stem the moral decline of our nation.”

We at Greenville Seminary are wholly committed to act on those things for which we pray and fast. Our particular calling, of course, is to serve a renewed church by raising up men who know the Word of God thoroughly, who can drill deeply into its mysteries, who can proclaim it with power and conviction, and who can thus spur true revival in the church, all with the help of the Holy Spirit.

This lofty mission requires a substantial investment in godly and scholarly faculty and quality staff; facilities for learning, libraries and equipment conducive to good scholarship; financial aid for needy students, and so much more. As 2015 comes to a close, we beseech you to partner with us in realizing our divine calling. As a token of our appreciation for a gift in November and December of:
  • Under $250, we will send you, a copy of Professor Ryan McGraw's booklet "Corporate Prayer and Preaching." 
  • $250 or more, we will send you a DVD with a six-part series of lessons called "Calvinism and the Christian Life," by GPTS trustee and adjunct faculty member Dr. Ian Hamilton. 
  • A pledge of $50 or more monthly for the next 12 months, we will send you an ESV study bible (allow 4-6 weeks for delivery).

Our reality-driven goal is to raise $180,000 by the end of this year, an amount needed to erase some monthly deficits we have registered this year and to give us a solid financial foundation for the coming year. We look forward with great eagerness to the fall of 2016 when we will start our 30th year of theological instruction.

Whether or not you are able to underwrite our work with a monetary contribution, we ask you to undergird us with prayer — and, as the Spirit leads, with fasting.

Mail tax-deductible gifts to: Greenville Seminary, PO Box 690, Taylors SC 29687-2358.

Audio version of this message can be found here.

The Rising Cosmic Battle for 'One-ism'

Dr. Peter Jones
The culture of the Western world has moved beyond post-Christian, post-modern, and post-secular and is now permeated with neo-paganism spirituality. So said Dr. Peter Jones in a recent special lecture entitled "The Great Opponent of Contemporary Christianity," delivered at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Dr. Jones is executive director of an apologetics ministry known as "truthXchange."

The new worldview is fueled by a philosophy which Dr. Jones called "One-ism," a cosmology which sees no distinction between the Creator and creation and finds god in everything — essentially pantheism, a revival of pagan spirituality and eastern mysticism. Pantheism is the belief that the universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god.

One-ism, Dr. Jones argued, is a virulent rejection of biblical Christianity's "Two-ism," a "binary" system which understands the clear distinction between God the Creator and His creation, the latter owing worship to the former. The binary cosmology laced throughout God's revelation is "ground zero" for Christian belief and witness, he said.

In One-ism, everything is of one substance, nature is ultimate and is worshiped in a thousand ways, he said.

"We are in a deep conflict of these two worldviews," said Dr. Jones. He said the church has never faced a challenge as pervasive as the current drive toward universal paganism and the gross sexuality that is one of its new benchmarks. It is an attack on the fundamentals of Western Civilization with the goal of replacing it a completely different system, he said.

One-ists think they are progressive, but their philosophy has ancient roots, including in Buddhism and Hinduism, he said, adding that the movement began rising again to prominence in the 1950's and 1960's with the New Age Movement and the Sexual Revolution.

Currently, militant homosexuality is in the vanguard of the drive to eliminate binary thinking, which understands there are sexual distinctions within humanity, namely, men and women. Militant homosexuality is disguising itself in terms of civil rights, but it is really a deep-seated manifestation of One-ist philosophy that seeks to destroy all notions of distinctions in creation.

Dr. Jones said the denial of the binary is also being manifested in theology, ethics and morality. In theology, the distinction between God and creature is being denied and buried. In ethics, the distinction between right and wrong is being eliminated in favor of inner experience. In One-ist sexuality, there are no opposites, and androgyny is increasingly being seen as the ideal. Androgyny is the ultimate attack on biblical, natural sexuality — it sees no sexuality, no sexual identity, he said.

He cited Romans 1 as one of scripture's best descriptions of the sinful world's descent from what it instinctively knows about God but suppresses, to pagan spirituality, and eventually to sexual perversion. He noted that biblical sexuality is grounded in creation structure, which included the creation of creatures after their own kind and the separation of land from sea and darkness from light, for example — all of creation being reflective of the very diversity in unity found in the Trinity.

In evangelism and apologetics, biblical Christians, who have been concentrating to a large degree on increasingly discredited atheism, must begin to address pantheism, which he called the middle point between theism and atheism. "Pantheism is spiritualized atheism," he said

Dr. Jones said that in witnessing to homosexuals, Christians must take great care because we are typically dealing with damaged, abused people. Christians must avoid a "moralistic" and sentimental "love everyone" approach, as well as making simple appeals to tradition and even biblical proof texts. We must get to the heart of this cosmology and see homosexuality as the embodiment of One-ist philosophy, he said.

While One-ists often speak of "wholeness," Christian Two-ism grows out of God's "holiness," Dr. Jones said. Holiness should not be seen primarily in moralistic terms, but according to its root meaning of sacredness — being set apart for a dedicated purpose.

"We must exalt the Creator in the beauty of holiness," he said. The holiness of God describes His relationship with His creation, not so much His moral character. "He is different from us," set apart from His creatures. This distinction between God and creation and the unified diversity within the Trinity itself are the foundational expressions of Two-ism, he said.

The biblical view of marriage similarly expresses binary truth, whereas same-sex marriage expresses the opposite. The Bible begins with the marriage of a man and a woman and ends with the wedding feast of the Lamb and His bride, he said.

The conflict between the binary view and its opposite is also central to our understanding of origins, Dr. Jones said, adding that there are only two possible options: either the world was created by a Rational Agent that is apart from and above what was made, or the natural world made itself. If humans are seen as part of the natural order that made itself, mankind is free to do anything it desires, thus establishing the primacy of the human will and making himself his own god. In that case, all of which he is a natural part is to be worshiped, he said.

View the full lecture here:

See the Question and Answer session here:

Students, faculty, staff and members of the local community fill two classrooms for Dr. Jones's special lecture on Oct. 19th.

Financial Report for October 2015

The tables below indicate our financial situation as of the end of October 2015 and the 2015-16 fiscal year to that date. Unrestricted general fund donations from churches and individuals during October totaled $$64,807, which was nearly double the September figure but still $3,151 below the $67,958 budgeted for such income. Total income for the month, including funds withdrawn from reserves, was $91,107, which was $11,763 below budget projections of $102,870. Expenses of $101,484 were $5,518 below the $106,002 budgeted for expenses. In addition, we received $1,043 toward our Capital Fund in October. A total of $10,965 was given for scholarships, all for international students, and $3,000 was given for international faculty travel.

We continue to need your help! Your gift and prayers are vital to the accomplishment of our mission. Will you give generously and pray earnestly for a stronger financial foundation this month? We express our thanks to those who responded to our financial appeal last month.


fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams
Graph shows October
contributions vs. Budget 
(upper number)

 Donation Income (unrestricted)
 Other Income (see note below)*
 Total Income
 Net Income
Donation Income
Other Income (see note below)*
Total Income
Net Income

*NOTE: "Other income" figures include a planned $16,667 withdrawal monthly from a reserve account established from a bequest received near the end of our last fiscal year.

 Capital Campaign Goal
 Long-term Pledges Outstanding
 Total Received and Pledged
 Outstanding Obligations
 Monthly Payment (Interest Only)
 Remaining Mortgage

If you would like to make a convenient online donation to Greenville Seminary, click the "Donate" button above. Gifts may also be mailed to: Greenville Seminary, PO Box 690, Taylors SC 29687.


Fidelity Charitable Clients: Click here for Donor-Advised Fund direct deposit (available soon)

Most of all, be fervent in prayer that God would provide all that is needed for us to do what He has called us to do in this ministry which the church so badly needs in these uncommon times.

Remember, gifts to GPTS are tax-deductible and may include cash, securities, property or a variety of planned giving instruments. (The tax deduction is reduced by the fair market value of any premium received in return for a donation.) See here for information about planning your last will and testament with the Kingdom of God in mind.

Whether or not you can contribute financially, here is another way you can help the seminary: Spread the Word! Do you know someone that would be interested in learning more about our organization or supporting us? If so, share a link to this newsletter. (Click the tiny "M" e-mail icon at the bottom of this post.) Thank you for your continued support for Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

2016 Spring Theology Conference and Open House: Save the Date

Plans are nearly complete for Greenville Seminary's annual Spring Theology Conference to be held on March 8-10, 2016. The conference will address the charged contemporary subject of "Marriage, Family and Sexuality."

The conference will be held again at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, 2519 Woodruff Rd, Simpsonville, S.C. Registrations are now open at GPTS web site. Watch your mailbox for registration opportunities and a brochure coming soon. Be prepared to register by Jan. 29th for Early Bird rates on conference fees (see below).

Also planned is the second annual campus preview for prospective students on March 7-8 (details below).

With marriage, family and sexuality severely under attack in America, Greenville Seminary has never offered a more timely conference. The church and the world need biblical answers to the sexual perversions rampant in our culture. More importantly, the church needs to demonstrate the powerful, biblical alternative.

In this conference, we will deal with some of the difficulties faced today: homosexuality, transgenderism, and pornography, but our main goal is to defend the biblical standards for marriage, courting, and relationships between husband and wife and parents and children. The godly home is a powerful antidote to the perversions of our day. Of course, the greatest antidote is the Gospel, and we will review the life and something of the thought of one of the great Gospel preachers and theologians of the past.

Speakers and their topics are:
  • God's Design for Marriage — Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., GPTS president
  • Gay Marriage: Right or Wrong? — Gary Bates, Creation Ministries International
  • The Maker's Instructions — Dr. Ian Hamilton, pastor Cambridge Presbyterian Church (UK), GPTS trustee and adjunct professor. (Evening worship service, free and open to the public. Live webcast on SermonAudio)
  • Nurturing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage — Dr. Joel Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
  • Free and Last: Counseling Those Dominated by the Sin of Pornography — Dr. Kevin Backus, pastor, Bible Presbyterian Church, Grand Island, N.Y.; Fellow - National Association of Nouthetic Counselors
  • Family Worship in the Reformed Tradition — Dr. Benjamin Shaw, GPTS associate professor
  • God's Nursery — Dr. Pipa. (Evening worship service, free and open to the public. Live webcast on SermonAudio)
  • Biblical Wisdom for Courtship and Dating — Dr. Richard Phillips, pastor, 2nd Presbyterian Church, Greenville
  • Special lecture on The Life and Theology of John Owen: A 400th Anniversary Appreciation — Dr. Ryan McGraw, GPTS associate professor and Owen scholar
Registration Rates:
  • Early Bird rate $85 through Jan. 29, Spouse $35, Non-GPTS Student $20, Alumni $60;
  • Jan. 30-Mar. 3 - Standard rate $115, Spouse $35, Non-GPTS Student $25, Alumni $85.
  • After Mar. 3, on-site registration rate of $120 applies, GPTS, Graduate $90, Student $30.
  • Youth 12 and under attending with parents: Free; Over age 12: $20. 
  • Prospective GPTS students who attend the pre-conference open house (see below) may attend the main conference without charge.
  • Those unable to attend the entire conference may register on-site for one day. Tuesday or Thursday rate: $35; Wednesday rate: $55; student, wife and/or child: $10. 

Encounter GPTS: A Campus Preview for Prospective Students

On the eve of the 2016 Spring Conference, the seminary will again host an open house for prospective students. The Encounter will be held on March 7 and 8.

The 2016 event will again include opportunities for would-be students to tour the campus, attend classes and a special chapel service, meet faculty and students, participate in a panel discussion, and attend the main Spring Conference as guest of the seminary.

If you are considering a seminary education, this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about GPTS, enhance your understanding about a theological education, and inform your decision-making about choosing a seminary. Register now to attend.

An Encounter with God, an Encounter with GPTS

Larry & Katie Rockwell

A Prospective Student Profile

Larry Rockwell is a singer-songwriter whose sometimes troubled life journey led him first to the Gospel, then to the Reformed Faith, and now to a perceived call to preach that Gospel in word and song.

That journey has led him to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and fervent prayers that God would help him order his busy life so that he could begin theological studies at GPTS in the near future.

Larry, 44, a resident of downtown Greenville, S.C., discovered GPTS while driving down Main Street in suburban Taylors on his way to a coffee shop in the old textile mill near the seminary. The discovery coincided with burgeoning perception of his calling to the ministry, and he immediately researched GPTS, concluding it would be the ideal institution to deepen his understanding of Reformed theology. He immediately became a financial supporter and was given an appreciative gift, Dr. Joseph Pipa's commentary on Galatians. Reading in that book and studying Dr. Pipa's Westminster Confession of Faith Study Guide cemented his perception of his calling.

"It was during a quiet reading time last year of Galatians that I believe the Holy Spirit called me to an in-depth study of theology," he said. "I am still trying to sort out where God is leading me, but I believe Greenville Seminary is most definitely in my future. I am not sure when or even how I will be able to accomplish this financially and budget my time for work and family, but I fully trust the providence and the will of God the Father to fulfill the calling He has made. Patience, prayer, and faith are my guide."

Larry visited the GPTS campus and chapel service in early November and was warmly welcomed by students and staff, prompting another response from him.

"I wanted to reach out and tell you how much I appreciated our time together yesterday, and how much I enjoyed visiting Greenville Seminary! It is such an invigorating honor to stand amongst men with such a passion for God's holy and inerrant word! I was beyond impressed and inspired to do all that it takes to become a student there in the future! I would also like to extend my gratitude toward the wonderful students who made a point to speak to me and encourage me not only in my decision to attend but also in my faith! Also, thank you for a wonderful lunch and your kind and considerate conversation! The entire time was truly a pleasure and an honor!"

Larry asks for prayers that he would be able to fit a seminary education into a life that already includes family and three jobs. He works at a friend's shop mornings, teaches guitar in the afternoon and he and his wife Katie perform musically at various Greenville and Upstate venues in the evenings. He said he has loved the guitar since his childhood and hopes to incorporate his musical talents, now increasingly focusing on serious Christian themes, into his future ministry.

On the singing duo's joint Facebook page, they tell how they met.

“We met in September of 2010. We were both in pretty low places, getting past hurt relationships, and playing music in the same area. When we met we were insta-friends. Ya know, those friends that could lean on each other, understand what the other was going through, writing music together... it wasn't but a few months. and we were a musical duo,” they say.

On Valentine’s Day 2013, they released a CD called “You Are Not Alone” a few months after they had been married. 

"These were songs we'd written together over coffee and wine. It was a compilation of all our emotions and experiences leading up to our marriage. The title and the album photo was purposeful…two people hand in hand walking towards a scary forest... "No matter what happens from here on out... no matter how scary... You're Not Alone...I got you." We have been working on new music ever since.”

Pray that God would provide all that is necessary for Larry to answer His call to Gospel ministry by seeking a biblical education as its foundation. 

Praying with Thanksgiving

'Grace," by Rhoda Nyberg. This famous portrait is from a photograph taken in 1918 by Mrs. Nyberg’s father, Eric Enstrom, a photographer from Bovey, Minnesota.

By Dr. Derek Thomas

If ever you find yourself at a loss for words [when praying], there is something you can do. Turn to the Lord's Prayer. It is a model given to us by our Lord Jesus to help us pray. True, we can use it "as is" and repeat its grand petitions. But we can also use it as a model and learn from its structure and proportion how we ought to pray.

Martin Luther employed the Lord's Prayer encouraging disciples to use each clause as a hook on which to hang thoughts of their own. From each clause of the Prayer, he recommended making "a garland of four twisted strands" by, (1) identifying the truth(s) taught, (2) expressing thankfulness for all the good gifts suggested, (3) confessing sin(s) that rise to the surface, and (4) petitioning God as needs come to our minds.

Since this [month includes a special day] of Thanksgiving [in the United States], strand number 2 seems particularly appropriate. Perhaps it could function as a test of the seriousness with which we approach such a season. Before Thanksgiving dinner, why not ask each person to mention one or two things for which they are especially thankful? 

Let the Prayer itself be your guide.  Note that it begins — and stays — with God before it asks for anything. Too often we rush into prayer with our needs and wants. STOP! Breathe in the refined air of God's presence. Allow your thoughts to contemplate who he is. He is praiseworthy. Already, the familiar words of a hymn should rise to the surface: "Praise my soul the King of heaven, to his feet thy tribute bring."

So we thank God for who he is in himself. God invites our praise so that we may be reminded every time we come to him that "he is God and we are not." Praise forces out selfishness and our in-built gravitational pull toward self-deification. As Calvin put it, our minds are idol factories by nature. Praising God is what we need to do and what we are so poor at doing. Listen to the content of much prayer and discover how poor we are in extolling God.

Thankfulness corrects such poverty. Be thankful, then, for God and your relationship with him. Do not make the fatal mistake of thinking that your relationship with God is directly proportional to the amount of theology you know and can debate. Knowing about God is not the same thing as knowing God. When we can say, "I know you, O Lord; and you know me," it is a matter for which we must be truly grateful. Stand in his presence or better, kneel, and say, "Father." It is a breathtaking experience. What a privilege that is! The One who made the universe and holds it together is my Father in heaven.

            And your Father in heaven did not spare his Son.
            He gave him up to a cross-shaped death for us.
            What wondrous love is this!

Now thank him, with all your heart. This is gospel-shaped praying. We are thankful because of what he has done for us: he has chosen us, called us, regenerated us, justified us, adopted us...And we have only just begun the glorious duty of giving thanks.

The preceding is an excerpt from a post at Reformation21.org. See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/praying-thankfully-a-thanksgiving-meditation.php#sthash.l4EAXtMJ.dpuf

Liberality in Giving: A Stewardship Meditation

Charles H. Spurgeon on Supporting Kingdom Work

"Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house." — Haggai 1:9

Churlish souls stint their contributions to the ministry and missionary operations, and call such saving good economy; little do they dream that they are thus impoverishing themselves. Their excuse is that they must care for their own families, and they forget that to neglect the house of God is the sure way to bring ruin upon their own houses. 

Our God has a method in providence by which he can succeed our endeavours beyond our expectation, or can defeat our plans to our confusion and dismay; by a turn of his hand he can steer our vessel in a profitable channel, or run it aground in poverty and bankruptcy. It is the teaching of Scripture that the Lord enriches the liberal and leaves the miserly to find out that withholding tendeth to poverty. 

In a very wide sphere of observation, I have noticed that the most generous Christians of my acquaintance have been always the most happy, and almost invariably the most prosperous. I have seen the liberal giver rise to wealth of which he never dreamed; and I have as often seen the mean, ungenerous churl descend to poverty by the very parsimony by which he thought to rise. 

Men trust good stewards with larger and larger sums, and so it frequently is with the Lord; he gives by cartloads to those who give by bushels. Where wealth is not bestowed the Lord makes the little much by the contentment which the sanctified heart feels in a portion of which the tithe has been dedicated to the Lord.

Selfishness looks first at home, but godliness seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, yet in the long run selfishness is loss, and godliness is great gain. It needs faith to act towards our God with an open hand, but surely he deserves it of us; and all that we can do is a very poor acknowledgment of our amazing indebtedness to his goodness.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Morning and Evening," Oct. 26

New Babies, New Furnishings: GPTS Nursery Gets Upgrade

Student Michael Grasso and his wife Erika recently
presented their infant Eva Mei for baptism at
Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Greer, S.C. Big brother
Luke was looking on.
Greenville Seminary has been blessed with a growing number of students with small children, and several new babies have been born in recent months.

The seminary maintains a small nursery next to the Student Commons so kids have a place to play during various social events, dinners and receptions held in the Commons.

Thanks to some caring donors, the nursery has just acquired some new furnishings and toys. The photos below show these new additions.

Since the fall semester began, additions have been made to the Michael Grasso, Michael Spangler, and James Clark families.

A new changing table and rocking chair purchased with funds from an anonymous donor.

A new chest donated by Professor and Mrs. 
Michael Morales

Let's Network!

It would be hard to over-estimate the role and influence of the 21st-century phenomenon known as Social Networking. Smartphone, tablet and desktop computers, and laptops are now used by millions of people around the world to network, inform, promote, connect, recruit, and who knows what else, sometimes for good and sometimes for evil.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram have become household words, along with scores of other networking options. GPTS is no stranger to many of these networks.

On Facebook, we have public seminary page, an alumni page (closed group), and a prospective student page (closed group). We have a Twitter account: @GPTSeminary. And we are the largest user of SermonAudio's network, where you will find hundreds of sermons, lectures, conference offerings, and more, both audio and video. Visit our YouTube channel for a growing number of video resources. There's also a fledgling LinkedIn account for the seminary and separate accounts for some seminary personnel.

One of the great advantages of these networks is that information can be shared widely with friends, who are then able to share with their own network of friends, and these, in turn, can share again, until a wide web of shared information spreads through the country and world. "Like" us, "follow" us or otherwise connect with us through these networks with resources to share.

We encourage you to help us spread the word by sharing articles from this e-newsletter and posts on our networking pages that you find informative, useful or otherwise worthy of circulation. To share e-newsletter articles, all you need to do is click on one of the small social media icons at the very bottom of each article, or simply copy the article's web address and paste into a post on Facebook or other networking media.

This will help give the seminary more widespread recognition. We desire to influence lives and recruit new students. International terrorists are using these means to spread their hatred and violence around the world. Let's employ these powerful digital networks to spread the Gospel, as many Christians are doing, and let the world know what Greenville Presbyterian Seminary is doing to bring biblical revival to the church and the nations.

We hope you will consider spreading the word!