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Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of Covenant Seminary

Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them. I recently interviewed Mark Dalbey, president of Covenant Seminary.

Christina: Can you tell us a little of the history of Covenant Seminary?

Mark: Covenant Seminary was founded in 1956 and served as the denominational seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod until the RPCES joined with the PCA in 1982. From 1982 to the present we have served as the denominational seminary of the PCA. Throughout its history, the seminary has been committed to the inerrancy of the Bible, the Reformed faith as expressed in the Westminster Standards, and the Great Commission.

Christina: How does Covenant Seminary engage the broader St. Louis community?

Mark: Covenant Seminary has served St. Louis PCA churches as a training ground in providing many pastors, ministry staff leaders, and church planters in Missouri Presbytery. While our primary role has been to serve the PCA, our location in St. Louis has also been a training resource for other evangelical churches in the greater St. Louis area as well. This includes a growing relationship with churches of ethnic, socio-economic, and cultural diversity in our area…

Small but Mighty: God’s Work in the Life of Gideon and In Us

Have you ever considered yourself small, weak, and insufficient? In our human eyes, we often view our smallness as negative and limiting, but if we look closely, we see that our God-given limits can be the means for us to grow in our faith and dependence upon God.In the book of Judges, Gideon referred to himself as the “least” in his family. Gideon might have felt small, but God referred to him as a “mighty warrior” and he is listed alongside other men and women of faith in Hebrews 11.

God’s Work Through Gideon

In Judges 6-8, consider the following scene: Fearing the Midianites, Gideon is afraid to winnow his wheat out in the open air, where the breeze catches the grain and separates it from the chaff. He is afraid of doing that and becoming too visible to enemy eyes. As a result, we find Gideon crouching down, trying to thresh his wheat in the pit of a winepress.

Suddenly an angel speaks to him. I imagine this encounter probably made him jump out of his skin! Gideon referred to himself as “the least” likely, which meant that Gideon was economically and/or socially one of the poorest members in his tribe. Judges paints a picture of Gideon as shy and reserved. He also seems quite unassertive in the way he asks God to show him some unusual signals and signs. In his book Judges for You, Tim Keller expands our thinking with a different perspective. He believes Gideon’s response came from an earnest, humble heart seeking God’s direction. Keller sees Gideon teaching us how we need to press in and ask God to give us a big picture of who He is.[1]

The Grass Withers: Not Losing Heart in our Momentary Afflictions

This month, our last child is getting married. And while I am thrilled with my son’s choice for his wife, and anxious to welcome his new bride into our family, it is a bittersweet time of change. This milestone is also a reminder that my parenting years are now officially over. It is another season of change. Only recently, I retired. The job that I so enjoyed and the accomplishments that went with it are now behind me. On top of that my body is beginning to betray me. My arthritic joints and myopic eyes often combine to remind me of what I could once do. 

PEach week after our Bible reading. the pastor of our church concludes with the words from Isaiah that “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Every time I hear these words, I think of how my life is withering. Withering is hard to face – and not much fun! We don’t like change, yet change is one of life’s constants. It is guaranteed. The Psalmist wrote about it clearly, though darkly in Psalm 103:15-16; “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”I could be discouraged with the Psalmist’s words if I did not continue to read the words that follow in verse 17: “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.”

What Difference Does Jesus Make in our Hardships?

On June 6, one of the elders of our church died at the age of 58. This was an unexpected and painful loss and came only 18 months after the death of another elder from our church who was 62. Both men were beloved by their families, their church, and the Covenant College community where they worked.

It was one of those situations that makes you ask, why? If God healed Epaphroditus and spared Paul grief upon grief (Phil 2:27), why couldn’t he have restored these men who were helping care for his flock? Our church prayed fervently for that kind of healing, yet God chose not to heal them.In a fallen world, we are well acquainted with grief, loss, and suffering. But that prompts the question, what difference does Jesus make in the daily trials and hardships of life? If the way I live my life is no different from those who don’t follow Jesus, then I have a problem. Am I basically a secular person who goes to church to socialize—or do my theological beliefs have a direct impact on my daily life?

Beyond Sunday School Answers

When I ask what difference Jesus makes, the Sunday School answer is “Jesus makes ALL the difference.” And I heartily agree. But what does that mean in the mess of our daily lives? Although I believe Jesus is important, I don’t always live in a way that reflects this confession. Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus can handle my disappointments, my frustrations, my worries.

As I think about the difference Jesus makes in my life, several Scriptures stand out…

I’m a Mess-terpiece

That was my conclusion the other day when I mentally reviewed footage of my most moronic moments. Once I was hosting a meal after a funeral, and in trying to light candles, I set the tablecloth on fire. Another time I was having a wonderful conversation in our living room with an honored guest, until the pet chinchilla got out, and the dog got in. One of us did not survive the chaos.

I was going to bring punch to your anniversary party, but I took the wrong highway exit and got there 45 minutes late. Here’s that book I borrowed—it was as thrilling as you had said! But I did have a tiny incident with the grape jelly while I was reading it. Youth group is arriving to meet at our house, and so are the plumber and the electrician….

Time does not permit to tell of my doomed drive to the next county to deliver an important document (it never got there), or of why I nearly threw up on a nun in an airplane. No, nor of how I closed a conversation with someone I wanted to impress by saying, “Thank you please!”  And there was the time—I’m sorry, times— when I fell down in front of a hundred people.The only suave thing about me is that I don’t blush, though my self-esteem is curdling like the carton of milk I left in the trunk of the car.

Why don’t I just hide under the covers to avoid doing some real damage? Sometimes that has seemed a good option. I’ve always found it hard to feel forgiveness for doing something stupid that is not a sin. Oh, wretched woman that I am, who will rescue me from this body of sin and death and fender benders and lost house keys? How can I repent of stupidity? I can take my sins to the foot of the cross, but I can only shudder when I remember how things ended after letting my nephew try to walk in his new leg cast.

Is there grace for innocent blunders? If so, why do they cause me to sit up in bed at 2 AM and clap my hand to my forehead, whereas my memories of being angry or feeling lust allow me to sleep like a baby?