In the Beginning… of our Year

The year is off to an exhilarating start! In January I was able to take a compelling class on “Practical Apologetics.” Apologetics is the art of “reasoned arguments in the justification of something.” In this case we explored the topics of absolute truth, how millennials think, post-modernism, the existence of good and evil, and the relationship between faith and science. I was really challenged by these topics and discussions and would highly recommend Christian Apologetics to anyone with questions. (Which I think might be everyone.)

Blaire also began her classes in January. She is taking a class on Christian theology and another on the life of the historical Jesus! She can usually be seen lugging around a copy of The Institutes by John Calvin. I am taking a class on the history of the church over the past 500 years, one on the theology of the Old Testaments and the last one on the critical issues in the Christian mission to Muslims. Our small group is going through the book of Acts and can be seen “in action” in the picture below.

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Serving at the shelter

Aside from shoveling, this season has been great so far! As the new Global Mission Intern at our church I am able to serve and support our global missions team as well as our churches missionaries. I will also work toward the mobilization of prayer and missions training for the congregation.

Gaining this experience has really been invaluable for me. I am thankful for all the support and the opportunity to serve in this capacity.

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Yeah, we shovel.

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“The great art of life is to moderate our passions. Objects of affection are like other belongings. We must love them enough to enrich our lives while we have them, not enough to impoverish our lives when they are gone.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“You can’t beat Lewis and Tolkien.”
― C.M.D. Colangelo

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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

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

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?

 

“I’m Shipping Up To Boston”

Grand Canyon Together

I fell into the habit of tracking the miles of every trip we take. In a way, measuring the experience against the ones we’ve had before it. The hipster would say it’s the miles you put on your soul that really count. Then they’d get back to taking black and white pictures of coffee. We did feel this though. We felt it when we looked out at the Grand Canyon for the first time. We felt it when we stayed with family we haven’t seen in a long time.

The View

In a lot of ways our trip from California to Boston was the end of a journey better counted in years then miles. Of course it’s the beginning of an all new adventure but we’re not there yet. I think tracking my miles has caused me to jump from experience to experience without reflection. I’ve been forgetting to stop every once and awhile to see the view. Ferris Bueller would be so disappointed. I lived in Mexico for over 4 years. I made an eternal commitment to my best friend there. We’ve grown and changed in so many ways. I wonder of the 19 year old kid I was when I left would even recognize me. I wonder if he’d be proud. I think he would. I know he wouldn’t believe that Blaire is actually my wife!

Lobsta!

From Mexico to Massachusetts with all our worldly possessions stuffed in a 4×8 trailer. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks to Blaire’s parents, Alan and Patti, we we’re able to thrive in this transition. I can’t thank them enough! I’m also proud to report my “backflip in every state” has extended to 35, with only my left knee being completely destroyed! Please pray for it 🙂

Backflip State #34

Favorite quotes right now…

“A river without banks is a large puddle.” – Mike Dunlap & Ken Blanchard

“Sometimes the teacher is silent during the test.” – Church sign in Jenners, PA