A New Testament Student

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

It’s been a short while

I’ve been away for a while.  I have the urge to apologize but realize that I really have nothing to apologize for.  The last month has been an absolute whirlwind.  My family and I are in the process of relocating from Georgia to Connecticut, and there is the hectic Christmas season.  I’m about 90% finished with my Gordon Conwell application.  All that’s left is the recommendation and Church endorsement forms.  Please keep us in your prayers in this stressful time.  You can expect more posts towards the end of January as I get settled in my new home.

May the Lord bless you and keep you this Christmas.  May your understanding of the Incarnation be deepened and your love for God set ablaze.  Pour out hope and peace on all that you encounter, and pray for those with plenty along with those in need.

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Healing Part 1: My Story

I’ve been drafting out a few new posts this week, then I remembered that I was going to share my experiences with miraculous healing.  I’ve decided to share an excerpt of a sermon I preached on healing back in 2008 because I think hearing the story gives a greater understanding of how real this is.  The clip is about 10 minutes long.

Also, here is another healing story that I got to be a part of.

God is Good.

We as Christians walk in faith that God is who He says He is.  God heals, and that is not something that will ever cease.  It isn’t about God being a vending machine, and it isn’t about comprehending or understanding why we don’t always see healing in the ones we love.  It’s about taking God at His Word, and believing that Jesus Christ is truly the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Praying for the sick to be healed is a practical response to Christ’s commandment to pray that the Kingdom would come on Earth as it is in Heaven, and is an invitation to welcome the Spirit of God into people’s lives.

Taking an interest in someone’s infirmity and seeking out a solution to their hurts is a very real way for you to show someone that you love them and is also a deeply intimate act of worship.  As you come before God with a request to heal, you are acknowledging that this natural world is not all there is, that He is the author, creator, and finisher of all things, and nothing is outside of His sovereignty.

You don’t have to be wacky or flamboyant to pray for the sick.  There doesn’t need to be a show. All it takes is a willing heart.  There is no such thing as failure because the power to heal does not find its origin in you, but in the living God who works through you.

Healing is a core theme of the New Testament.  We need only go four chapters in to find an instance of Christ healing people (Matthew 4:23), and many of his teachings came out of discussions with the pharisees after He had healed (Luke 13, 14 etc).

I believe that the truth of miraculous healing presents a great deal of opportunity for us as Christians to walk out our faith in Christ.  I plan to delve deeper into my meditations about healing in the future, but I encourage you to seek God in prayer about this topic.  I trust that it will change your outlook on life and give you a greater sense of awe and wonder concerning your God and savior.

Observing His Commands: Give to the One who Begs

This is the third post in my series on the commands of Jesus.  I want to focus on a  single command from the sermon on the mount. I’ve decided to focus on this specific command because it is one that has had a great impact on my life.

Give to the one who begs from you…” (Matthew 5:42).

This command is a tough one to swallow for most Americans, and I’ve seen many try and add various “if’s” “and’s” or “but’s” after it.  Truthfully, the hardest part of this command is that Jesus doesn’t leave any room for excuses or specific circumstances for when not giving is really an option for His disciples.  He simply says, “Give”.  On the other hand, there is room for variance in what you choose to give to whoever is begging from you.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with homeless people.  From New York to France to Georgia:  I’ve seen drug addicts, brothers in Christ, families that have been laid off, and gypsies.  Each person who begs from you has a specific need.  Some need money, others need food, and still others just need you to give them some of their dignity back through conversation and sitting with them in their sidewalk home.  I’ve done each of these, and find all of them to be useful.  There was even a time I bought a disabled homeless man a subway card so he could have a place to sleep without being harassed by other people on the street.

I know that many people have opinions about giving homeless people money.  They are worried that the man who is begging will turn around and buy alcohol or drugs.  I’m personally of the opinion that God will redeem whatever you give because you are giving it out of obedience to Him, but I understand the thought process.  My encouragement is to simply be prepared to give something.  Keep a granola bar in your purse, or a restaurant gift card in your wallet.  There is always a way for you to keep your King’s commands.

A powerful example of this can be found is Acts 3:1-9.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God…”

For the Apostles, keeping this command had nothing to do with money, but had everything to do with increasing the glory and honor of God through Jesus.  I believe that, in some circumstances, we as believers will see this type of miraculous gift be given to someone who begs from us because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and we are filled with the same Spirit that the apostles were filled with.  I’ve also experienced miraculous healing, and have witnessed it in the lives of others.  (I’ll share my story in my next post)

With all this in mind, I encourage you to give.  I encourage you to be prepared to give what you are lead to give, whatever that is, and to ask God to use you as a tool for His glory by following this command.  Following God through giving to those who beg of you can be difficult at first, but becomes easier and easier as you walk in it.  You begin to see God provide for you in ways you never expected and you grow to see that nothing you have belongs to you in the first place.  It belongs to God, and whatever you give to “the least of these” you give to Jesus.

History

I got the textbooks for my first seminary course in the mail last week. The course is Survey of Church History. I’ve spent the week devouring the book pictured above (You can click on the image to purchase it on amazon). It is a book I thoroughly enjoy, and is encouraging me in my decision to pursue the course I’m on. I’m coming into the ‘Age of Reason” in the text, and have come to a few realizations.

First, There is no golden age of Christianity. Each age holds its own flaws, and each leader his or her own failings. The patriarchs, the Roman Catholics, the reformers, the emperors, even the apostles struggled in their understanding of God, and how we relate to Him. As a Christian growing up in the evangelical tradition, I have heard a great deal of praise attributed to the apostles and reformers contrasted by sharp criticism, if not hatred, for all things Roman Catholic. While I am a protestant, reading this text has opened my eyes up to an important truth. The Gospel did not pass away between the fourth and sixteenth centuries only to be resurrected by the Reformation. The name of Christ remained a focal point for a millenium in the midst of plagues, persecutions, and political strife, and the Catholic practice of monasticism preserved all of the ancient writings, including the Scriptures, that brought the reformers to their powerful conclusions. There may have been many distorted and overlooked truths, but there were men who stood firm in their trust of Christ and worshipped Him in the way their culture taught them was appropriate.

The second realization is one that has been growing in me for a while now. We as Christians should perpetually be questioning (I’m not sure this is the best word to describe my point, but is the only one I can think of) the practices we use to engage with God and carry out the lives He has commanded us to live. If we assume the traditions we are presented with are ultimate authority in practice as a Christian people, we will begin to lose sight of the truth that God is drawing men from every tongue, tribe, and nation to Himself. He is not only doing this in our age, but has been doing it for over 2,000 years and will continue to do so until Christ’s return.

Third, the study of Church history is of the utmost importance. Ignorance breeds the cyclical nature of false teaching about God. In my reading I have been blown away by how many times the Gnostic teaching of Dualism, the denial of Christ’s divinity, and other teachings contrary to the basic Gospel have crept back into the church. Studying Church history also has a wonderful benefit for personal faith as well. It opens a door to understanding why you believe what you believe. The Christian faith didn’t start with your local church, but has been growing like a mustard seed into a great tree since the time of Christ.

It’s my hope to continue my education until I am able to teach Church history at an undergraduate Christian school. The idea of giving young leaders of the Church an understanding of where they have come from at their deepest roots gives me great joy. Also, the chance to be perpetually learning from the coming generations excites me with the prospect of learning where we are headed from the people who will carry the torch long after I have gone to be with Jesus.

Observing HIs Commands: Follow Me

This series is going to focus specifically on Jesus’ commands that are directed towards His disciples in the gospels. I am going to take a broad stroke in this first post and look at one of the first commands Jesus gives in all four gospels. “Follow Me.” This command is first found in Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:27, and John 1:43, respectively, and is repeated twenty times in the Gospels. One thing I notice as I look at Jesus’ command to follow Him is that it simply serves as a starting point. There will be similarities between each disciple’s walk, but there is no promise of uniformity of experience in the lives of Christians.

Jesus came with a very specific purpose, and he followed that purpose to his death and resurrection. At the end of His life Jesus said “It is finished”. He knew that his time was finished and that his purposed had been fulfilled. Similarly, when the apostle Paul came to the end of his life he wrote these words to Timothy:

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Paul knew that his work was finished; He had confidence that he had fulfilled his purpose in Christ. For Paul, following Jesus lead him all around the known world. It meant building the Church, bringing Christ to the Gentiles, writing much of the New Testament, and ultimately suffering a martyr’s death.

Finding your purpose and calling in life can bring confusion, stress, and heartache. We are often encouraged to follow our hearts, but I’m not sure we should. Jesus says, “…out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:19-20a). Our hearts deceive us. We do not know what we need or what is best. Realizing this is what brings us back to the starting point. “Follow Me”.

I want to make clear that I am not referring to variations in the moral standards we are to uphold as Christians. I am referring to the non-moral life that each believer carries out around those commands. Consider the man who Legion possessed. After being freed, he begged Jesus that he might go with him, but “[Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). Compare this to the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus did not command him to go back to his home, but said to him, “…go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).

Both men were following Jesus but were commanded to do take completely opposite action in order to do so, and our lives are no different. One of the hardest things I’ve had to grow out of as a Christian in the twenty first century is trying to conform my life to look exactly like the lives of men I admire in scripture. I cannot live out the same life as David, Paul, Joseph, or Peter. There will be parallels, and the same power resides in me that resided in them; but God created me for a specific purpose, and placed me in this body at this time in order to fulfill that by His grace.

This is where prayer and intimacy with God plays a vital role in the life of a Christian. If we are not saturating our lives in the things of God, our deceitful hearts and the enemy of our souls will guide us off of the straight and narrow path that Jesus has called us to individually.

I encourage you to Follow Jesus. Your walk will look quite different from mine if you do, but it will bring joy and fulfillment far beyond your wild expectations. He will direct you, counsel you, console you, and sanctify you. He will give you confidence that you are not running in vain. He will call you out to take steps where there seems to be no ground, and at the end of it all, you will have the same confidence Paul had, regardless of what it looks like.

Observance: Matthew 28:20

Globalization, the internet, and ease of travel has made reaching the entire world with the Gospel in our lifetime a very possible reality; thus the great commission is one of the most referenced passages of scripture among Christians in our age.  I’ve been wrestling with the passage a lot lately, and something struck me as I’ve pondered and prayed.

Here’s the Passage:

Matthew 28:16-20

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 The first part of verse 20 is what struck me the most.  Making disciples, and baptizing them is something I’ve heard quite a lot about, but teaching those disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded the apostles is not something I’ve heard a lot about.  To be honest, much of the disciple making I’ve seen in Church has done little more than introduce people to Christ.  We bring young believers to the point of baptism, then turn our focus back to the lost in an effort to fulfill the great commission.  Sadly, we end up missing the point. We must be teaching Christians to observe all that Jesus taught in order to truly fulfill the great commission.

The word observe here is a translation of the greek work τηρέω.  Here’s a list of definitions from Blue Letter Bible.

1) to attend to carefully, take care of

a) to guard

b) metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is

c) to observe

d) to reserve: to undergo something

The Gospel is deep, profound, divine, crushing, life giving, and so much more.  With that in mind, I want to start a series of blogs focusing on the commandments  of Jesus in the Gospels.  I encourage you to join me in seeking His heart, and ask Him how we may strive to observe all He has commanded us to be, say, and do.

Education

I’ve only recently begun to read blogs.  It started out with technology and video game blogs, but since starting my own I’ve begun to seek out other Christians doing something similar to what I do here.  One of the most compelling bloggers I’ve found thus far is Alan Knox.  This morning I stumbled across a blog he wrote back in September of 2008 about spiritual maturity and formal education (Maturity and Education).  Given the title of my blog and my recent decision to go to seminary myself;  I’ve decided to post my own thoughts on the subject.

The idea of education in the Church is one that has often perplexed me.  The apostles were fishermen, tax collectors, and were even called “uneducated men” (Acts 4:13).  They were men filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in faith and trust in God.  On the other hand, they did spend three years under Jesus teaching prior to his crucifixion and also received teaching during Christ’s short stay on earth after His resurrection.  As with most ideas in our faith, it comes down to the heart.

How you approach Christian education makes all the difference.  If you  go into seminary or bible school with the intent to gain a degree just so you can pursue a career in ministry and keep that mentality throughout your studies, you will gain quite a bit of knowledge.  However, that knowledge may not result in exponential growth in spiritual maturity.  If you enter into seminary with the intent to seek the heart of God, the self discipline, amount of study, and time needed to complete any degree in Christian higher education will undoubtedly result in greater maturity upon graduation.

I am learning that going to seminary requires a great deal of humility.  the school I am planning to attend requires you to have three recommendation letters and a church endorsement.  For me, that is humbling because it takes the control out of my hands, and puts it into the hands of those who know me and live with me.  Going to seminary is also humbling because you must acknowledge your need to learn.

I will say that I do not believe higher education is a prerequisite to living out a call to ministry.  Stephen lived out a bold ministry that lead to his martyrdom, and that martyrdom is the only time we see him in scripture.  There is no scriptural basis for saying that he knew, or followed Jesus prior to Pentecost.

In closing, I believe that bible schools, and seminaries are an important part of Church growth because they offer a level of commitment to the study of God’s word and the Church that is needed.  I also believe that there is much more to being a leader in the Church than having a diploma from an educational institution.

Ambition

I may have been over ambitious to start this blog when I did. There is a large amount of preparation and time that goes into the posts I want to write about the New Testament, but I just don’t have the time to give right now. Between working two jobs and raising a newborn daughter I barely have time to get laundry done.

I don’t want to stop this blog, and I don’t want to cheapen the scriptures with poorly thought out posts and ideas. With that said, the content on this blog is going to shift for the time being. Once a week I’ll post something relating to my personal experiences and how my faith impacts them. I am also going to try and post once a month continuing with the discussion of the New Testament.

As time opens up on my schedule I will move back towards the weekly scripture discussions.

see you next Sunday

 

A Short Delay

This has been a rough week, so I spent yesterday relaxing and spending time with my family. I’ll hopefully have the next blog on the first part of Matthew 2 up by Sunday.

Peace be with you

Milestones

Milestones are important because they remind us to reflect on and remember what God has brought us through.  In an age of constant upgrades, updates, and innovation, we often forget where we’ve come from.

Today is the first anniversary of my marriage to Katelyn.

The past year has been one of the best and hardest years of my life.  I’ve gotten married, moved halfway across the country, become a father, had two family members go to be with the Lord, and grown into more of a man than I thought  possible in 365 days.  I’ve grown incredibly close to God, and have had dreams restored.  This blog is actually the fruit of one of my most treasured places of growth; my regular reading of the scriptures.

One of the most humbling reflections I am having right now is recognizing that growing in certain areas of my life means returning to ideals and a level of faith that I had years ago, rather than discovering a new thought process or idea.  The Holy Spirit also uses our milestones to encourage our hearts.  Even if we look back on heartbreak and anguish, His voice reminds us that He has conquered our circumstances, and worked out everything for our good and the glory of God.

We must always remember that every milestone is a gift from above.  We would not have the breath in our lungs were it not for God’s love and tender mercy.  When we come to an accomplishment we must pour our hearts out before the almighty king and worship his majesty and grace.   Whenever we receive praise, it is our duty to turn in prayer and direct praise to the only one who is worthy and good.  At the same time, I still wrestle with how to go about this, since self deprivation can often turn into a form of conceitedness and boasting among Christians (The first will be last and the last will be first).

I encourage you use your milestones as a time of remembrance and praise.  If you are reaching out to attain a milestone, I encourage you to turn your heart to prayer and trust that God will guide you in all wisdom and knowledge because of His great love for you.