Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sometimes Fiction Is My Greatest Teacher: Learning How to Reflect God in the World

Below I included an example of part of the schoolwork I do for the School of Biblical Studies. This is my Final Application for 1 Peter.

My final timeless truth for 1 Peter is: “Christians are to be holy.” This comes from 1 Peter 1:15, which says, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” My significance to the contemporary reader is: “Journal: How can I reflect who God is in this world (that is meaning, set apart)?” I know I can never attain perfection, not sinning, in this life. I’ve struggled with perfectionism most of my life, but boy, is it being worked on in the last year before SBS and currently! But God calls me to be holy. Though, number one, I need to remember that I am holy, set apart by God, because of God’s gift of grace. I am made righteous! I am like Him. I think the hard part comes in really believing that and learning how to live that in this present world.

I think the person who has most impacted me in my pursuit to live out this question is really not a person at all but a fictional character in a book! Hadassah was a Christian Jew living 2,000 years ago at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. She was sold into slavery and bought to serve a Roman household in Rome. For a long time she thought herself weak in comparison to her father who gave his life for the sake of the gospel and as she believed she failed as a witness for Christ to her Roman masters. But Hadassah was not weak at all. Through all the things mentioned in the letter of 1 Peter she demonstrated true servanthood to Christ and to the family she served, a character of humility and submission, and a pursuit of holiness. After much time, perseverance, and suffering, she was a witness of Christ to them.

I know I am not as meek, kind, or compassionate as Hadassah and certainly not patient, but I am a bit more fiery, opinionated, and abrupt, but I am challenged in a good way. If God can use an imagined character to speak to me and inspire my life (and other people’s too), how much more can He shape my character and my testimony after Himself? I am chosen by God and “His own possession” that I “may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [me] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). (The “Marvelous Light” song by Charlie Hall should really begin playing in the background right about now.)

What am I going to do now in response to my question, “How can I reflect God now?”  It’s not in an attempt of “doing things” that I reflect God, but I seek to reflect Him. So I desire to spend time with my Father, to know Him deeper and more intimately, to see His heart for others, and to respond to His heart.

*If you are interested in the character Hadassah who I described above, I recommend for anyone to read the Mark of the Lion trilogy, A Voice in the Wind, Echo in the Darkness, and As Sure as the Dawn, by Francine Rivers. They would be valuable for anyone interested in being impacted and challenged in their own Christian walk and/or in the history of the New Testament and early Christianity during the Roman Empire. Click here to read more about Francine Rivers' books:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hope this will give you a glimpse of what I do in the School of Biblical Studies in South Africa. This is my Final Theme Summary, where I traced 1 theme through the book of 1 Timothy. Enjoy.

I desired to trace the theme of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy through the epistle of 1 Timothy. Paul calls Timothy his “true child” in 1 Tim. 1:2 and implores his to correct false teachers in the Ephesian church who are leading people away from the faith. Paul uses the example of his own life and Christ’s example to demonstrate to Timothy the example he should be also so that people may believe. Paul emphasizes twice the prophecies Timothy has received so that he would be empowered to walk in the gift and call that placed on his life. Not only does Paul encourage Timothy to be an example of godliness and sound doctrine in his own life but to train himself and to teach others in the church how to live out a godly life. This includes encouraging, teaching, and disciplining in church order, behavior, with leadership, young and those older than him, men and women, slaves and masters, widows and elders.

Paul is addressing this letter to Timothy because of the false teachers in the Ephesian church and how that is affecting people’s doctrines, their beliefs, but also how they live out their lives as believers. So Paul is imploring Timothy to teach and correct doctrines and behaviors, but he says that the aim of this is for “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” in 1 Tim. 1:5, and so the Ephesian believers should feel corrected and encouraged out of Timothy’s love and devotion. Paul’s attitude towards Timothy throughout the letter is one of encouragement, especially as Paul emphasizes his father heart for Timothy. But toward the end the letter Paul addresses Timothy as “man,” implying that Timothy is fully grown and fully called by God and fully given gifts for the task set before him. In difficult, confusing circumstances with attacks surrounding him, Timothy is reminded by Paul of the strong call of God on Timothy’s life, that God is his strength, is guiding him, and working through him. Timothy feels empowered and believed in by Paul to live godliness and to be an example, even to men much older than him and to people so different from him. Timothy feels supported by Paul to teach with confidence because of Paul’s encouragement and because of Paul’s organized, almost simple instructions. Paul is bringing Timothy back to the basics when people are heaping controversies about the meanings of words and that this or that means to do it this way and not that way. In all the Ephesian stew of syncretistic beliefs and teaching, Timothy is reminded he is not alone.

Encouragement should be significant and a part of the contemporary Christian believer’s life! Paul is a great example of how this should be done. So as Paul encourages Timothy in love and sometimes with strong words, Timothy is to encourage the Ephesian believers in love and even with strong words and correction, but all in love. In we could bring this into the church today, into discipleship, even into the secular workplace, I believe there would be changes. The greatest example I have is in my own life where I can think of many people who have encouraged me. God has used their encouragement to influence me to be the person I now am and to live the life I now lead. If I think of life without Christ and without Christians obedient to God in pursuing me, I would be a very different and sad person.

Started by Bill Gates, Billionaires are Pledging to Give Away Part of their Fortunes.

It's called The Giving Pledge.

Read the article here:

I am so excited by their generosity, whether they are Christians or not, I believe that God can use and move His resources the world over. And maybe with their endeavors to think beyond themselves and consider those less fortunate, maybe, walls will be broken in their own hearts to be moved towards the One who calls their names. I pray for this. Will you pray with me?

This makes me think in another direction - to myself. Lately, I have been praying to be a more generous person because really, I don't see myself as that generous. This is especially because I usually consider, "Can I afford to be generous in this instance?" Now I'm not saying to be irresponsible, but I do desire to be able to respond more naturally in generosity, without more negative thoughts running through my head. So if I feel God nudging me to be generous and I respond, can I trust God to meet my needs? It may come slowly, but I am seeking God to change my heart so that I can learn and put legs on my faith!

If I am seeking God's heart for generosity, what is the foundation of generosity? But is it love? So then, how do I love? In the passage of Mark 12:29-34, the greatest commandment is identified as loving God and second is loving your neighbor are yourself. I know who my neighbor is everyone and anyone, but how do I love my neighbor? 1 Corinthians is filled with the theme that "our aim is love" (thank you SBS leader James Lunn) through everything, whether encouragement or correction, our aim is love, the love of Christ. This is to our brothers and sisters in Christ, how to prefer our brother, but Paul also speaks about unbelievers desiring them to be saved (see also Rom 9:22; Eph. 4:12). 1 Timothy has a whole 14 verses Paul devotes to Timothy on instructing the church to help those "who are truly widows" (1 Tim. 5:3-16).  James 1:27 says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

May what Gates and others are doing be a challenge to us, for me personally and for the church.  I pray for the Church, American and worldwide, to seek God's heart of love so they can in turn demonstrate their love in generosity and care to those around them. And personally, I ask God for a transformed heart to love and the ability to do that practically as God demonstrates this heart through His Word.

Read this article in the magazine Christianity Today about YWAM (Youth With A Mission), the Christian Missions' Organization which is celebrating 50 years this year and that I work with in Montana, South Africa, and around the world!

Click link below:

National Geographic Photography Contest - Look at Picture #42! It's the view of Table Mountain for Capetown, South Africa near where I live.

Photo Credit and to view the other amazing photographs: