What I Learned About Rest

This month I went to a silent retreat called “Soul Sabbath.” The silence part was pretty straight forward but our opening instructions were a little shocking to me. I could tell the Nuns who hosted our group were fully aware of the culture we carried with us. They passed around a basket collecting cellphones and electronics of any kind as soon as we walked in. They only told us a few things before we were dismissed to our respective rooms. They told us where the bathrooms and fire exits were in addition to the location of the trail through the woods so we didn’t get lost. Lastly they said, “Most importantly, know that you cannot accomplish this rest. In fact if you’re doing it right you won’t accomplish anything today. You will rest”

Apparently my group was as confused as I was. “Can I read my book?” someone asked “What about catching up on my prayer journal?” said another. “Can I stand in line at the DMV or maybe watch some paint dry?” I thought to myself as I surrendered my phone and the only work I brought.  Again the staff were not at all surprised by our… cultural confusion.

“If you get tried you can take a nap.” One of the leaders said slowly. Then they paused, looked out at us and told us something I had never heard before. The infant cries out to the parents for everything they need and it is the responsibility of the parents to listen and love the child. But if you have children you know how sweet it is when your child falls asleep on your chest. There is an inexpressible love and trust to that silence. How often do we lay our heads against the chest of our heavenly Father in essence saying, “You have comforted me and I trust you. I trust you enough with my life… to rest.”

It wasn’t easy but I can confidently say I accomplished absolutely nothing that day… and I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to God’s heart.

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The Topsfield Fair with friends

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Forrest, Jenny, a deer, and Batman… as usual.

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Blaire’s Photography of FALL!

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Ravi Zacharias speaking at chapel 

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“Dan Rather, an anchor for CBS, once asked Mother Teresa what she said during her prayers. She answered, “I listen.” So Dan turned the question and asked, “Well then, what does God say?” Mother Teresa smiled with confidence and answered, “He listens.” For an instant, Dan didn’t know what to say. “And if you don’t understand that,” Mother Teresa added, “I can’t explain it to you.” – Max Lucado’s Just Like Jesus

“If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs) than the love of God is the end of wisdom (1st John).” – Dr. Tom Pfizenmaier

The Department of Redundancy Department.” – Pastor Greg Hills

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin of Hegel’s Dictum

 

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Seminary Year 2: All the Facts

Have you ever wondered what kinds of books are assigned in seminary? Probably not… and look no further. This semester I’ll be taking 5 fairly diverse classes and I thought it might be interesting to add the required reading for those classes. I’ve also underlined my top recommendations (even though I’m still working through most of them). Just in case any of them seem interesting enough to warrant further reading.

Class: Spiritual Formation for Ministry
Required Reading:
1.) Ruben and Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.
2.) Thomas, Gary, Sacred Pathways: Discovering Your Soul’s Path to God.
3.) Foster, Richard, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.
4.) Macchia, Steve, Crafting a Rule of Life.
5.) Ash, Christopher, Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice.
6.) Benner, David, The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery
7.) Any kind of Prayer Journal for your personal use.

Class: New Testament Interpretation (Blaire’s auditing this class!)
Required Reading:
1.) Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition (NA28) (Greek New Testament)
2.) Fee, Gordon D. New Testament Exegesis, A Handbook for Students and Pastors
3.) Green, Joel B, and Lee Martin McDonald. The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts.
4.) Green, Joel B. Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation.
5.) Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration.
6.) Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral.

Class: Advance of the Church in the Non-Western World
Required Reading:
1.) Gonzalez, Justo L., The Changing Shape of Church History
2.) Hastings, Adrian, ed. A World History of Christianity
3.) Kim, Sebastian and Kirsteen, Christianity as a World Religion
4.) Walls, Andrew, The Missionary Movement in Christian History

Class: The Black Christian Experience: From Africa to the Americas
Required Reading:
1.) Carter, Anthony J. On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African American Christian Experience.
2.) Daniels, Robin. This Holy Seed: …Early Churches of North Africa.
3.) Gonzalez, Justo L. and Ondina E. Gonzalez. Christianity in Latin America:
4.) Lampe, Armando (editor). Christianity in the Caribbean:
5.) Sanneh, Lamin. West African Christianity: The Religious Impact.

Class: Perspectives: On the World Christian Movement
Required Reading:
1.) R. D. Winter, S. C. Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement
2.) Perspectives Study Guide

I’m enthusiastic about this semester probably because I haven’t counted the total number of pages I’ve just listed or the number of pages I’ll have to write. Blaire may be the most productive person I’ve ever met, and she loves the fall weather! Needless to say she’s even more excited.

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IMG-1645Great time camping with friends!

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“The Word of God is food for our souls. Living bread. All too often we feel ashamed for missing our time in the Word but when you miss breakfast you don’t feel ashamed… you feel hungry.” Ps 119:103 “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” – Dr. Petter via Jake Williams

“Jonathan Edwards farted.” – The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine

Vacation Celebration!

The month of August may have been the most difficult yet rewarding month so far. The Greek II summer intensive class honestly tried to kill me but by God’s grace and the help of my neighbors Jake and Josiah, I made it through! I should buy them Chipotle. Seconds after completing my 3-hour Greek final Blaire and I flew to California beating our checked bag by only 4 DAYS! Aside from that and the 24-hour delay on the flight back, our trip was unbelievable. These are the highlights…

 

This is Chandler Hope McGuirk! This tiny angel is our brand new niece and Blaire’s current obsession (for obvious reasons). It was great to see Blaire enjoying her niece because she has been Wonder Woman this summer. She worked full time while finishing up her Reading Course and somehow managed to help lead worship at our church and workout and put food on the table everyday! That was a run-on sentence but it shows how hard she’s been working and how badly she needed to see her family.

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We also saw a shark! Alan and Patti took us to a Darius Rucker Concert for my birthday!  And we helped serve at The Shoreline Church! (It was an eventful trip.)

 

Lastly we got to stay with the Bisant family and see little Joey. If you would like to hear more about Joey’s incredible journey please visit caringbridge.org/joeybisant.

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

—Horatio Spafford (1876)

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring. (And my older brother Tony)

Top 3 Advantages of Biblical Greek

Why even Learn Biblical Greek?

Interestingly that was my main question entering “Summer Greek.” It would be nice to study the Bible in its original languages while in ministry but is it really necessary? God’s Word is God’s Word, right? Well to be completely honest with you I’m still on the fence about it. This has easily been the most academically challenging summer of my entire life. I’ve been studying 15 hours a day 7 days a week and sometimes I feel guilty even taking full breaks to eat meals. It might seem like a small price to pay for knowing 80% of the New Testament as it left the hand of Paul or John but I have had to continually remind myself why I’m doing this. What follows are my top 3 reasons for learning Ancient Biblical Greek.

#1 The History:

When Alexander the Great set out to conquer the known world he intentionally introduced the Hellenistic age by forcing all conquered people speak the same language. The New Testament is written in this form of “Koine” (κοινη) Greek. “Koine” just means “Common” because it was the common language used by all people. My Greek textbook encourages me that two major lessons can be taken from this. One, Paul says, “In the fullness of time God sent his son” (Gal 4:4), and part of that fullness was a universally understood language. And second, God uses the common language spoken by all people to communicate the gospel.

#2 The Words:

I believe the greatest hurdle for learning Biblical Greek is also what makes it the most rewarding. Greek words are “fully loaded” meaning they contain more information then we can sometimes translate into English. For example there are roughly 8 different variations of every noun. This may seem like a lot but not compared to the 36 different forms of every verb. These forms are a headache to remember but they also help clarify what the creator of the universe was saying about our eternal salvation. So… there may be some validity in learning them.

#3 The Lost:

I considered naming this section “The Truth” because when it comes to the Bible the truth (or lack there of) can make all the difference but the truth is the Bible has always been for the lost sheep. Paul says in Philippians 1:15-18 that, “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others… do so out of love… But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Like everything else at seminary I’m realizing it’s a lot less about me and a lot more about Jesus. (Surprise, surprise.) It has been helpful for me to remember that I’m only here because Christ has already freed me from so much pain and emptiness in this life. Additionally He has called me (like all Christians) to offer the opportunity of that same love and healing and fulfillment and joy and salvation to others.

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“All that is gold does not glitter, – Not all those who wander are lost; – The old that is strong does not wither, – Deep roots are not reached by frost. – From the ashes a fire shall be woken, – A light from the shadows shall spring; – Renewed shall be blade that was broken, – The crownless again shall be king.” – Gandalf

(Blaire is reading “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R Tolkien)

3 Years! Can you believe it!?

Just in case you missed our 3 year anniversary.

Bookworm Blaire

Many of you may not have known this but I (Blaire) have been doing a distance reading course through the University of the Nations (YWAM Montana Campus) for the last 6 months. Since January I have read over 8,000 pages from commentaries, dictionaries, church history books and many other works from top Christian theologians. As I finish the last book of my reading course, the Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer; A Christian Worldview 5th volume, I am taken aback by how much I didn’t know. I have had resources around me all my life that I took for granted. This reading course opened my eyes to how important it is to learn about the history of my Christian faith.  It was important for me to learn about the people who sacrificed so much for our faith and to know how Christianity has influenced the world around us. Today I see so many well educated people criticizing the legitimacy of our faith saying we are naive for believing in a Savior. What I have found is that the truth of the bible can really be pressed. My faith was heightened through my short investigated because the scriptures can take it. I encourage anyone that has questions about Christianity to ask those questions and take time to research for themselves. Ultimately I believe that God offers us all the opportunity to doubt our doubts about Him and have faith.

To be completely honest, many times during this Reading Course I have felt tired of reading. I felt tired after a long day at work or tired of waking up early to put more information in my brain. But now that I have finished I have never felt so passionate about what reading challenging books can do. Instead of scrolling through Instagram or Facebook pointlessly, which I am definitely guilty of, I can learn something worth while. I am so glad God called me to this school. It has matured me in ways I didn’t even know I needed to be matured in and it has humbled me with how much I didn’t know about my own faith. It has really grown my relationship with God and further rooted my faith in Him.

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“A wise man once said nothing at all.” – Proverbs 17:28 & Drake Drizzy Rodgers

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”― Charles H. Spurgeon

Overwhelmed by “Normal”

Have you ever been invited to do something thinking full well it was probably only by mistake. Like one of those “happy accident” movies from the 90’s where someone at NASA mixes the names up and they send some skateboarding teen on a space mission. My whole first year of Seminary I’ve been waiting for someone to start chasing me across the campus yelling, “that’s the guy!” After being tackled I would understandably say, “Well, I had a good run.” Blaire and I are continually overwhelmed by what has become “normal” in our lives. We are overwhelmingly thankful for all those that believe in us and keep up with what we’re doing. This includes everyone who lovingly supports us as well as all those who take time to read this monthly blog! You make this all possible!

This past month has been filled with hard work and incredible blessing. I’ve finished all my final papers on time and got to spend a few days with my brother Eric before he starts working at Pine Springs Camp for the summer! We were also able to go camping for the first time in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with some close friends. My first summer class was on “Church Planting and Growth” and it might actually be my favorite class so far. We got hear about the Chinese house church movement from a Professor who has worked with the underground church and has actually been able to plant churches in China! The rest of the summer I will be under the full time commitment of learning the ancient Biblical Greek language.

 

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“When a Russian cosmonaut returned from space and reported that he had not found God, C. S. Lewis responded that this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle and looking for Shakespeare. If there is a God, we certainly don’t relate to him as people on the first floor of a building relate to people on the second floor. We relate to him the way Hamlet relates to Shakespeare. We (characters) might be able to know quite a lot about the playwright, but only to the degree that the author chooses to put information about himself in the play.” – C.S. Lewis & Timothy Keller

I know it is fun to wrestle. A nice pile-drive to the face; or a punch to the face; but you cannot do it because it is in the Bible not to wrestle your neighbor. – Nacho Libre

 

Hard Questions: God of Judgment

If asked; “Isn’t The God of the Bible is a God of Judgment?” How might you go about giving a reasonable answer to this difficult question. I wanted to share my short paper because I thought the assignment asked a really important question.

The world can feel more divided than ever before. More and more cities are on the verge of riot and communities overflow with broken families and friendships. How can the judgmental God of the Bible be the answer when love and acceptance are so obviously needed to overcome the world’s judgment? I can see how the case appears to be opened and closed, but just before you retire God from His eternal post I believe we need to define our terms more clearly. We live in an age of increasingly relative truth, which means different people can define terms like love and judgment in so many different ways. Cultural diversity is a beautiful thing but to understand the love and judgment of God we need to make sure the original meaning of these words isn’t lost in translation and ancient history.

The Redefinition of Judgment

For example in the Old Testament book of Jonah, God’s judgment is swirling above the city of Nineveh when He called His prophet Jonah saying “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” If you have heard the story before you know that Jonah immediately sails the opposite direction without explanation. After Jonah’s boat trip gets a little fishy he eventually ends up in Nineveh preaching God’s message of judgment. Fortunately for the people of Nineveh the whole city apologized for their evil ways and God’s judgment was to forgive them all. So why do we see Jonah devastated by their deliverance? Finally Jonah cries out to God explaining “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

Like so many, Jonah thought he wanted justice. In the end what he really wanted was vengeance. He so badly desired for the wicked to get what he thought they deserved that he tried to keep God’s forgiveness from them. Jonah already knew that God’s judgment was different from revenge and he wanted to see God’s wrath instead of His compassion. Jonah did not just want justice; he wanted to be the judge. Normally all judgment is defined as bad judgment. Yet when we are the victims of a robbery or even an opposing view we cry out for justice hoping the courts will bring a good judgment. If you ask Jonah, God might not be the best place to demand that the wicked receive what they deserve. The judgment of God is fundamentally different from the judgment of the world because it is born out of His own sacrificial love.

The Redefinition of Love

There may not be a more difficult word to define than love. The original Greek New Testament has multiple different words to describe love were the English language only has one. Naturally the English use of love has taken on quite a few different meanings. One of the fastest growing definitions of love is tolerance, which can be a helpful piece of the picture but not the whole thing. In Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God he argues that, “If you love a person and you see someone ruining them – even they themselves – you get angry.” Love is acceptance but it also draws a line. The love of God provides the perfect judgment to inform the perfect intervention.

The truth of the Bible is that God’s love is seen in His judgment. Christ suffered and died in our place even though He was innocent teaching us that true love is a sacrifice that should challenge our view of justice. The Dalai Lama is famously quoted saying, “love is the absence of judgment.” Conversely the bible says in Romans 8:5 that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knows us fully, judged us rightly, and died for us anyway. The bible teaches it is a good thing that God is the almighty judge because His verdict was to die in our place taking the true judgment upon Himself. Love can be superficial in the absence of judgment but the God of the bible teaches us that the honest results of our judgment should be selfless intervention and sacrificial love.

 

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“I ain’t tryin’ to preach no sermon, but I never seen nobody that’s busy as a prairie dog collectin’ stuff that wasn’t disappointed.” – The Grapes of Wrath By John Steinbeck

Blaire’s Blurp

Life has changed in many ways for me over this last couple of months. Stepping out of my traditional mission field I questioned how my relationship with people and God would change. In our past organization we had every meal with the community we lived in. We had people asking about our spiritual lives. We had worship meetings three times a week. I was curious what community and my relationship with God was going to be like. After all we were moving to a state where I had no friends or family living nearby. This is one of the fears I’ve seen many people wrestling with when feeling God calling them to step out into something new.

I have been so pleasantly surprised by what God has done in this area. Chris and I felt that God has been calling us to Seminary for a long time. We had no idea how it was all going to work out but we had to step out in obedience and trust that He was in control. Living in Massachusetts definitely has its hard moments but my faith has grown a lot deeper during this time than I ever thought it would. It should be no surprise that God is always faithful to what he calls you into. But somehow it always surprises me. Not everyday is easy and some days aren’t even close but the depths of my faith have grown by having to step out in faith. The relationships we have gained here are incredible. The job that God provided for me has been such a blessing. They have both felt like an ordained gift from God in an area that I was so unsure about.

So if you are like me and have felt fear about stepping into something completely new I want to encourage you to continue trusting God. That may sound simple or repetitive but it’s a call that we all need to be reminded of. Just know that when life is hard, your trust and faith in the Lord can grow more than you ever thought possible. Keep running the race of endurance in your faith. To push through the doubts this life throws at you whether its sickness, finances or just feeling burnt out. His plans are above ours and His ways are far better than we could have ever thought or imagined.

 

Favorite quotes right now…

“There are no “ifs” in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety- let us pray that we may always know it!” ― Corrie ten Boom

“When we encounter hardship, if God doesn’t answer our first prayer-and our
first prayer is almost always, “God, please take away the pain”-then we can pray: “Okay then, Lord, please use the pain for your purposes. Put me into ministry with others who need to know your comfort.” We can pray, “I wish I had a job, but use me this week in the unemployment line” ― Paul Borthwick, Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?

“An old joke describes the difference between sacrifice and generosity. For a chicken to bring eggs to breakfast is generosity; for a pig to bring bacon is sacrifice. Generosity gives out of abundance; sacrifice costs us something.” ― Paul Borthwick, Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?

 

Starting Spring Semester 

This semester I’m taking four (4) classes; Systematic Theology II, The World Mission of the Church, Great Confessions of the Faith, and The Doctrine of Sin. Over the next few months I’ll be reading at least twenty-six (26) books. I was told coming into school that a Theological degree requires a lot of reading but to put things into perspective that’s a book every two weeks for a year! For me it breaks down to a book just about every three days. If you’re a praying person or if you knew me in high school, this would be a great time to stop and pray. I’ll wait…

All joking aside Blaire and I have been working pretty hard but I don’t think we’ve ever been happier. We feel confident this is where God wants us to be at this time so we’ve been able to invest more fully in it. Time has been flying by. Thanks to everyone who helps make this time possible. Fortunately we’ve found supportive community in our building and our church that are willing to play the Settlers of Catan® with us.

Our main encouragement this month has come from a mission focused prayer journal that has challenged us to grow in outward prayer. We have found it to be very fulfilling and aligning. Similarly, The Heart of Man is a movie // documentary on Netflix that deals with brokenness and had a great impact on us. Our campus has been in a time of reflection and gratitude remembering our co-founder Billy Graham who pasted away this month. Gordon-Conwell stands as only one of the many testimonies of what God has accomplished through this faithful servant.

Billy Graham

GCTS Skyview

Favorite quotes right now…

“As we give an account of this, it is first necessary to speak about the creation of the universe and its maker, God, so that one may thus worthily reflect that its recreation was accomplished by the Word (Jesus) who created it in the beginning. For it will appear not at all contradictory if the Father works its salvation in the same one by whom he created it.  – Saint Athanasius – On the Incarnation

“…every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde

Top Takeaways of My 1st New Testament Class 

This January I took my first class on the New Testament. The material is usually covered over a full semester but in the “J-Term” a class is condensed to just two weeks. Needless to say it’s a lot of information fast. I thought I would write a few of my top takeaways of a seminary New Testament course and a very wise Professor.

1.) Eye Witnesses: My first point about eyewitnesses really stands to address the surprising truth surrounding the academic world of biblical research. Namely, the amount of scholars who dedicate their lives to study the history and context of the bible only to loose their faith along the way. When studied so intricately, the bible can either become a spring of living water or just another text book. Which brings me to my first major takeaway; If you choose not to believe in miracles, it won’t matter how many people have seen them. Simply put, Jesus lived, breathed, spoke, and healed in front of thousands of… witnesses. It is always wise to question the validity of a story, the bible is no exception, but we have to remember that when the “Good News of Jesus” was being written down the cities were still filled with people who lived with the real person. How many towns experienced His miraculous life first hand? When the Gospels were written there would have been thousands of everyday people who could say “I remember when Jesus did that.”

2.)  Parables: Have you ever read one of the Parables and felt totally lost? Well, your not the only one. I learned It can be helpful to think of a political cartoon. It’s hard to understand the joke if you don’t know the politician or what He’s been up to. When you read a parable try to identify the characters by what you know Jesus is trying to accomplish. For example; In Matthew 13:1-17 the Parable of the Sower describes a man sprinkling seeds on four different types of ground. Would Jesus be the Sower or the seed? Thankfully Jesus explains that “the seed” is “the word” and since we know that Jesus himself is spreading the word of the kingdom of God we can see that he would be the Sower. A parable will almost always have three main characters; God, a good example, and a bad example. Keep your eyes out for these three and I hope this practice helps.

Fast Facts:

  • Some say Luke was a Doctor which means he was wealthy and educated; in reality Doctors in the New Testament were usually slaves. Dealing with blood and unclean disease was seen as a very dirty job.
  • The word “Baptism” in Greek is usually translated: immersion. To be fully immersed in a Holy Spirit filled lifestyle.
  • Prison in the first century was used as a waiting period for trial, not a sentence. Paul was not sentenced to time in prison. He wrote as he waited to be judged.

3.) The Davis family is the best! This month we were visited by some of our amazing family from California. (That’s right they left 70 degrees to visit us in 15 degrees.) We had such a great time in the snow and the city!

Favorite quotes right now…

“Sometimes when I start a sentence, I don’t even know where it’s going, I just hope I find it along the way.” – Michael Scott (The Office)

“Here we see who the historical Jesus was: the man who had the power to address God as abba and who included the sinners and the publicans in the kingdom by authorizing them to repeat this one word, Abba, dear Father.”  –  J. Jeremias  (New Testament History)