A New Testament Student

Thoughts about my life, the New Testament scriptures, and the Church

Transition

I started this blog with a very specific purpose, to discuss the new testament scriptures.  As I come to this site to write I feel obligated to stick to that idea.  I’m realizing that I need a more general outlet for blogging where I don’t have those same constraints (I understand that they are self made, but are there nonetheless).  Also, I am no longer on a direct path to seminary, but  I think I’ll revisit this space if the Lord should lead me back on the academic road, but for now I’m relocating here

devotedtothebride.wordpress.com 

Please come and follow me there.  I’ll be posting a more detailed explanation for the move at that address as soon as I can.

The Lord be with you!

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Revival

I’m working on part two of my series on Colossians 3.  It’s taking shape but I need a break, so here is another topic that’s been on my heart.

Revival.  The word stirs up so much in many Christians today.  It has carried through much of modern American Christianity, from the great awakenings, to the Azuza Street Revivals that birthed much of the American pentecostal movement.  I’ve heard so many of my peers beg the Lord for it to come, and often hear young and old say that its on the horizon.  While I love the desire burning in my brothers and sisters’ hearts, revival is not what I hope for, and here’s why.

The idea of revival stirs up thoughts of mass conversions, huge gatherings, and big, corporate moves of the Spirit.  All of these are wonderful things, but they turn into a point in history that cannot be sustained.  Pentecost was a single day, but the Church continued on to be so much more than that. The rest of the New Testament was written no more than forty years after the majestic work of God at pentecost, and so much of what is discussed in Acts and the Epistles refer to the faith as something that happens outside of the mass gatherings.  Christianity is not brought to its fulness at big tent revivals and conferences.  it is brought to its fulness as the Church moves deeper into repentance both corporately and individually in a very practical way.  Revival and the events that come with it have a real place in the Kingdom because God would never bring them to pass if they didn’t.  However, these events cannot support a continually maturing faith in Christ.

The more I read the scriptures, the more I realize that suffering is an essential part of the life of a disciple.  It’s not all doom and gloom, but becoming more Christ like means walking the road of the cross (That simple truth is the reason for my Colossians 3 series).  I believe that we can suffer for Christ in joy the same way that Christ suffered the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). We also have a joy set before us.  It is our inheritance in Christ that is worth more than any if us could ever imagine.

I don’t hope for revival, I hope for maturity.  I hope for the submission of the Bride to Christ in the midst of hardship and in the face of persecution.  I hope for days when we can stand firm on the truth of salvation and move into new depths of our understanding of God.  I hope for days when we understand not only our responsibility to evangelize the lost, but disciple the found with the same fervency.

I’m not trying to degrade or dismiss the work that is already being done, but I know that there is so much more of God that He desires to reveal to us here on Earth.  I read the scriptures and yearn for the unyielding fervency of the apostles and writers of the epistles.  I yearn for a Church that reflects its savior to the world in all facets rather than having to compromise in one direction or the other.  The truth is in our grasp and has not changed since our Lord rose from the dead. He will reveal himself to us and show us the way (John 17:26).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Colossians 3, Part 1: Dead

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the way things are in both my personal spiritual life, and what I have been observing in the church.  This morning I was reading Colossians 3 and the words began to jump off the page.  This chapter is loaded with immediately applicable truth.  It is incredibly difficult to live out, but is applicable nonetheless.  Rather than rambling on for eternity, I’ve decided to break my thoughts into a four part series.  We’ll begin with the first four verses

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is,seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

 Go back and read it again.

“If then you have been raised with Christ…”  That’s us right?  You know, Christians.  We’re the ones that have claimed his resurrection and the hope that it brings.  The thing is that we are all consumed with the things of this world.  We do some seeking of the things of God.  Some of us even do it very well.  We worship, pray, fellowship, and serve, but we do all of these things alongside of our earthly lives.   We’re constantly distracted by entertainment, stress, pleasing other people, food, and everything else under the sun where nothing is ever new.  The call of the passage is to seek the things that are above in spite of the things on earth, not along side of them.  We’re called to look above to where Christ is seated.  That’s where our gaze is to ever be, but we don’t.  We think about the latest trends, gadgets, series, movies, and music.  We think about our 401k’s and investment options.  We think about vacations, weekends, and activities.  We expect constant financial blessing that aligns with what the worldly standard declares that we need.  We expect it in the name of freedom under the cross of Christ as though Calvary was our free ticket to an all you can take buffet of stuff.

Paul says that we have died. D-I-E-D.  He expounds on this idea further in Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.   And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 Our life is hidden with Christ in God.  That means that we shouldn’t be seen.  For me, Christopher David Paré should be up above dwelling within the very being of my God and King, while this fleshly tent is inhabited by the fulness of God through the Holy Spirit, but in order for that to happen I have to really die.  Which begs the question,

 Have we really died?

 All the stuff.  All our cares, hopes, ideals, plans.  Our bodies, minds and souls.  Have we relinquished them to the Cross?

 if Paul’s admonishment isn’t enough, Christ himself made the call.

 “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  (Luke 9:22-24) 

Dying is not an option when it comes to discipleship in Christ.  We die, Christ lives in us, He receives all the glory, and then we receive our lives in glory at the end of the age.

This all sounds horrible to our sinful, egocentric minds, but it really amounts to unmatched freedom.  Think about it.  If we die and allow our lives to be transported and held in the depths of God, then the transition into the Kingdom of Heaven will be seamless at the end of the age because nothing will have changed.  We will receive our glorified bodies to dwell in, but our person will remain where it has been since we first died.  The cares of this world will mean nothing to us because our residency is in heaven NOW and Heaven will dwell on Earth because Christ will be living in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Not down the road, but immediately.

If only we would die…

(From the Gospel Coalition) Why You Should Consider Cancelling Your Short-Term Mission Trips

Why You Should Consider Cancelling Your Short-Term Mission Trips.

Open eyes, closed mouth, throbbing heart

I’ve been listening to the news on my way to and from work for the past few weeks.  It’s enlightening and depressing all at the same time.

I spent my adolescence avoiding the news, and pretty much everything outside of the subculture that I had entrenched myself in.  In 2009 I left the United States for the first time in five years.  I left my parents at the airport and spent the next two months living with a family that didn’t speak english (for more from the trip see the blog I wrote while I was over there http://myselfgone.blogspot.com/).  In short, my whole world exploded.  I had finally allowed myself to see more of the expanse that is Earth and it was on that journey that I decided to be more informed about the world around me.

That decision has born a variety of fruit.  Many of my convictions were deepened as a result of opening my eyes, but my approach to voicing those convictions has changed dramatically.  I try to take my time to speak my mind now rather than blurting out every opinion that I have.  I may have swung way too far to the other end though.

I process through dialogue so my recent trend of just keeping my mouth shut has proved to be detrimental.   I think blogging will ultimately be an incredibly healthy discipline, but I’m still trying to discern exactly what I am to do here.  I may just have to dive in and write about what’s on my mind.  I think I’ll go back through my posts and expound on some of the topics I have alluded to so far.

Future

Katelyn and I had a wonderfully productive night on Friday.  We rearranged some furniture and accomplished an impressive amount of cleaning.  In the midst of this we talked about hanging a shelf in our bedroom.  She has a very specific use in mind for the shelf that requires it to be mounted on an otherwise strange part of the wall.  my response to her desire was to say “what about years from now when we rearrange our furniture or possibly use a different room in the house as our bedroom?”  She responded by asking me if she should really consider what may or may not happen a decade from now in her decision to mount the shelf.

This exchange is a remarkably accurate representation of how I’ve found myself approaching the world.  To me, the future is a powerful reality that our actions in the present have a definitive impact on.  Thus, we must weigh the possible impact of our actions as often and as accurately as possible.  The approach has taken a much stronger presence in my life now that I am a husband and father.  Seeing Alice grow every day gives me a sense of how short life is and how quickly I will find myself with at least one teenager to take care of.  The irony of it all comes full circle when I think back about two and a half to three years.

I was pretty well steeped in the belief that all we have is today.  I didn’t want to make long term plans, work out budgets, or anything of the sort and would cite Matthew 6:25-34 as my “proof text” (proof texting is a whole other can of worms I’ll hopefully get around to talking about here).  I wouldn’t go as far as to say that no one should live a life free of long term plans, but when you have a family it just turns into poor stewardship of the path that God has placed you on.

So now I’m finding myself struggling between the two extremes. I, in my finite existence, can only plan and understand so much of the future.  The arrogant side of me wants a 20 year plan that has every little kink planned out with a fix while the childish side of me just wants to come home from work and do nothing.

Self control truly is a fruit of the Spirit.

Where it Wishes: Personal Reflections on John 3:8

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The struggle I have been having in recent weeks has yielded fruit.  I spent some time Tuesday night researching the cost of attending Gordon Conwell and how it lines up with my actual income, savings ability, and family life goals.  The Chasm between the two is immense.  As much as I would love to live and study on the north shore of Boston, the door seems to have been closed for the time being.

However, this did not end my passion for seeking out a graduate education.  I also spent some time researching other seminaries on Tuesday and ended up spending most of it on Trinity School for Ministry’s website.  What initially drew me to the site was my brother in law’s mention of a full tuition scholarship that the school offers, but the more I read, the more I feel drawn to the school.

The first and only church I have ever been an official member of is Christ Church of Hamilton and Wenham, an Episcopal Church in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.  I was a member there for just under a year and Kate and I were  married there.  I would have loved to stay there, but the Spirit lead my family down the east coast to Georgia.  When we moved I sought out an Anglican church to attend, but the only one close enough did not hold to a view of marriage and sexuality based upon the explicit teachings of the New Testament (I make the distinction because the Old Testament contains some marriage practices that are no longer blessed under the new covenant, such as polygamy).  This resulted in our attending North Georgia Church.  I could not be more thankful to God for bringing my family to that Church.  We gained immeasurable blessings and lifelong friends from our short time spent there.  It was a great surprise to Kate and I to feel the Spirit leading us back to New England.  We had found such a remarkable community at North Georgia and it was incredibly painful to leave, but I am now more confident than ever that I made the right decision.

Which brings us back to the topic at hand.  Pursuing a seminary education was one of the driving factors behind the move.  Living here in Connecticut provides an immense amount of personal comfort for me because I grew up here.  I’m living in my Grandfather’s house, which I have often hoped to raise a family in from the time I was a child.  I have all of my family nearby and most of my friends, but the Spirit may yet have another move in the near future.

I am reminded of a retreat I took while attending Nyack College.  It was part of a course called Personal Spiritual Formation and its purpose was to provide students with an extended period of solitude directed by the wisdom of mentors.  At the end of the retreat I was asked to leave one item behind and explain the significance of the item.  I chose to leave a feather I had received earlier in the weekend and quoted John 3:8 as the significance.  I said that I wanted to live a life directed by the Spirit and that I was willing to go anywhere I was lead just as the feather would go wherever the wind carried it.

Looking back, it is encouraging to see that I have listened to His leading even though it has cost me a level of consistency in life that I would like to have for myself and my family.  I am interested to see if I will end up having to make that tough decision once again in order to seek out my passion for further education and teaching.  If the Lord wills it, we will go.

Struggle

It has been a while blogosphere.

I originally intended for this blog to predominantly remain scripturally focused in a more formal format, but realize that unless you know who I am as a person my thoughts on the scriptures can mean little or nothing to you.

As I posted about a month ago, my family and I have relocated to Connecticut from Georgia (Where I began this blog).  Since moving, I have been able to spend more time with my family.  I live with my grandfather and work with my step-dad.  My wife watches my little sister, and I’ve seen my fathers mother once already since moving.  Kate (my wife) and I were even able to take a spontaneous weekend trip to Pennsylvania to see her family and meet our new nephew.  It has been great to have all of this time with family and it was one of the reasons I wanted to relocate.  On the other hand, there was another major reason that I felt God leading my family up here.

It was my intent to begin a Masters degree upon moving here.  I wanted to take the seeds that I have sown here along with my other studies and put them to use in pursuing a vocation in ministry.  Having this direction and focus gave me strength to endure a job that is incredibly taxing both physically and emotionally, as well as giving my heart peace about the path I feel God is leading me down.  As you may have gathered, I am not currently enrolled in seminary classes.

The past two months have landed me in a catch twenty two.  Kate and I have determined that I would not be able to work, study, and live out the family life we feel is best because of the large amount of time I would have to dedicate to my studies.  I would be able to pass my classes, but I want to teach.  This means I want to master my subjects.

The other side of the coin is the one that plagues most, if not all people who aspire to enter into ministry in our age. Finances.  Given that taking classes part time is not feasible right now I am left with the option of studying full time.   I was able to obtain a bachelor’s degree without incurring a cent of debt thanks to the generosity of my parents and grandfather.  I want to honor their sacrifice by not incurring any debt in furthering my studies.  It is also a strong belief of mine that incurring debt is not a way of handling money that  honors God.  I pay off my credit cards every month, and am doing everything I can to pay off what little is left of Kate’s loans.  Trying to pay for seminary on a dishwasher and nanny’s income is next to impossible.  We could do it if we saved up for the next five to ten years, but that’s assuming that the cost of private higher education doesn’t increase at all in that time frame.

All of this leaves me with an extremely heavy heart.  I have been seeking and praying for a specific direction in vocation for the call God has placed on my heart to seek unity in the body of Christ through teaching and discipling believers into a deeper understanding of their faith beyond the boundaries of the traditions that they were raised in or were introduced to Christ in.  I sincerely believe that becoming a Church History professor at a Christian college would provide me with the opportunity to seek out this calling as well as the calling I have to my wife and children.  I have known I was called to ministry since I was in middle school, and have held a variety of church positions that simply lacked the fire that comes from knowing that you are doing what you were made to be doing.  I have met  a few people who had that fire and it is unmistakable.  For me, that fire was kindled as I began to study Church History (I whole heartedly include New Testament studies in that category) and think about the idea of passing that knowledge onto others.

It is soul crushing to be able to see this calling spelled out in specifics for the first time in my life and not be able to reach it.  It has left me in an incredibly vulnerable space that has brought joy from the Lord and attacks from the enemy.  It was this afternoon that I received a new sense of urgency from Matthew 25: 14-29,

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

I want to honor God with what he has given me.  I want to be able to take this “talent” and multiply it a hundredfold to the glory of Christ.

Pray that  the Lord gives me the faith and wisdom to see what must be done.

Asceticism: Colossians 2:16-23

All of my posts to date have focused on the Gospels in keeping with my series on the commands of Jesus.   I’ve decided to deviate some and turn to the epistles.  A couple of weeks ago I read through Colossians and came across a passage that struck me.

Here it is: Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV)

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

  If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”(referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. 

During my study of Church History I have read about some pretty intense practices that modern day protestants would think simply unthinkable (whipping, intentional starvation, cloistering etc).  The modern understanding of asceticism applies more directly to the words “severity to the body” in verse 23, but I was surprised by what I found in further study of the passage.  The greek word translated in verses 18 and 23 as “asceticism” is ταπεινοφροσύνη.  Blue Letter Bible gives the following definitions for the word

1) the having a humble opinion of one’s self

2) a deep sense of one’s (moral) littleness

3) modesty, humility, lowliness of mind

This definition of asceticism has begun a reshaping of how I see myself and how I think I should behave as a Christian hoping to enter into vocational ministry.  The best way to explain what I’m talking about is with a story.

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about miraculous healing.  In the post I included my testimony that was included in a sermon I preached in 2008.  After the service I had a number of people come up to me and compliment me on my preaching.  With each compliment I gave a reply along the lines of  “That had nothing to do with me, I am only a vessel.  God is the one who did all the work.”   One of the men in the church rebuked me and told me to accept the compliments I was being given.  I didn’t listen to him, and was actually quite upset with him.  I’ve spent the past three and a half years thinking that I was right, but according to this verse, I was wrong.

I am not trying to say that being humble is wrong.  In fact, humility is at the base of our faith in that Christ humbled himself, even to death on a cross.  The end of verse 23 gives insight into this seeming paradox.

These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Self-made religion, Asceticism, and severity to the flesh (along with the other things Paul mentions in verses 16-19) have no value in  stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  They are, in fact, able to draw the believer into the indulgence of the flesh.

Public practice of religious devotion throws open the gates for pride to enter into our hearts and minds.  To many, my refusal of compliments after my sermon would seem to be humble.  I was giving God the glory that He deserves  for working through me in preaching.  However, we as Christians understand that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  We have been told that those who seek the praise of men have received their reward.  In showcasing my “humble” opinion of myself I ended up doing the exact opposite of my intentions.  I may have denied it then, but thinking back to that day I can see where my heart really was.

Stopping the indulgence of the flesh is a matter of private devotion to God through Christ.  It is in the secret places that we find our deepest weaknesses and, in turn, the depths of His grace.  This devotion expresses itself differently in each Christian, and Paul lays a framework of how these differences are to be addressed in public life in Romans 14.

In another sense, the paradox still remains.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says that he is the foremost among sinners who Christ came to save.  This is an extremely humble opinion of oneself and leaves a shade of gray around which ascetic practices are appropriate for Christians and which practices are useless.

As you can tell from the back and forth nature of this post, I am still learning about what all this means.  One of the most remarkable things about the New Testament is that it brings about a whole new dimension of understanding each time you read it.  I hope that you have found this post thought provoking and encouraging.

It’s good to be back.  My schedule is getting into a nice groove, so I’m hoping to be able to post weekly again.  Have a great week!

Relocated

The move is complete, and I’ve started my new job.  I’m a dishwasher for a cafeteria in a corporate building.  It may sound strange, but this is one of the hardest jobs I have ever had.  It is incredibly taxing physically, and the pace of the job makes it mentally taxing as well.  Yesterday was my first day and I washed dishes for seven straight hours save a trip to the bathroom and a five minute stop in the office to pick up my tax forms.

I left the kitchen soaked from head to toe, and feeling fairly discouraged, but after coming home, taking a shower, and giving my wife and daughter a kiss I felt better. Today went much smoother, but it is still exhausting.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into the swing of blogging.  There are a few topics that have been rolling around in my head including asceticism and how war and violence relate to us as Christians.   I’ve also been reading an interesting essay by C.S. Lewis that I’ll likely comment on soon.

Please be praying that I finish my seminary application in the next few months.  I want to start as soon as possible, but want to make sure I don’t put more on my plate than I can handle.

 

Peace be with you.