Category Archives: My Journey

Working From Acceptance, Not For It

I have been recently contemplating a move back to my hometown to complete an internship with Redeemer Fellowship Church. It would mean a lot of sudden changes in a very short period of time. Since it would be such a drastic change, I thought I’d run it by friends and family, including my beloved parents. I love my parents dearly, but sometimes it can be frustrating talking to them. I know they only have my best interest at heart, but sadly something’s they just don’t quite understand.

As I was discussing the internship and other stuff, I had to endure statements like “maybe your not ready for the ministry… God only calls those who are ready. Maybe you should wait and do something else and God will call you later”. And things like, “Enough of the learning, you need a job” (this one is real talk and also very humorous). Now there is validity to these comments. But for me, these words kind of hurt. Behind them is the assumption that the minister or pastor needs to have everything perfected. Clearly , my parents know me well, and they know I’m not perfect. This is called legalism, the very thing that Jesus confronted the Pharisees with in the gospels. No pastor, minister, teacher, or lay person has reached a perfected life. Paul says no one is perfect, not one (Rom 3:10). It’s unfortunate the we place these perfected requirements on the Pastor’s and we place them on very high pedestals. And if/when he fails, it’s so devastating. That’s not to say that we don’t press and do our best to live pleasing and acceptable lives, but we do it with the reality that we (pastors, teacher, ministers) are broken too, and out if that understanding of our brokenness should we minister to God’s people.

The beautiful thing is Jesus doesn’t require perfection. We find our perfection in him! Unlike the Pharisees who believed that there was something that we need to do to be accepted, God in Christ accepts us just as we are, broken. I realize I won’t be any more perfect 20 years from now than I am today. This frees me to continue to push forward in ministry. I don’t serve for Christ’ acceptance , I serve from it! What I do hope to happen in 20 years is that my heart would be so deeply rooted in love for God and his people.

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The Story of Christianity: A Timeline

A few semesters ago, I was tasked with creating a timeline of major events of Church history over the past few hundred years. Over two semesters, I created a time line of 200 major events. You can see the project here:

http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/79183/The-Story-of-Christianity-The-Early-Church-to-the-Reformation-and-the-Reformation-to-Modern-Day/#vars!date=1504-02-08_16:42:37! (copy and paste in your browser)

hebrewI know history can be kind of boring, but in order to prevent making the same mistakes, we need to understand our history. I hope you find the project helpful. And please give me feedback.

Biblical Ethics: Are welfare programs promoting bad character?

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I recently finished writing a paper for a Christian Ethics course, and I chose the topic of welfare. I chose the topic mainly because I work with men (homeless) who are dependent on food stamps and assistance programs. Most of them don’t realize it but they are enslaved by the welfare system. They seek to live month to month on the assistance of the government, and some of them do not even want to get a job. Some of them disappear around the first of the month. And when all of their money is spent boozing, doing dope, and paying for sexual favors, they return to the shelter, broken waiting on the first of the month to roll around again.

It is also a topic of interest to me because some of my family members have had to file for welfare assistance. Some of them do abuse the system, but others are greatly in need. The Bible calls for us to care for the poor (Matthew 25:31-46), especially the poor among the family of faith (Galatians 6:10). There are numerous references to the people of God concerning themselves with the poor. In fact, the primary means of support to the poor is through the Church (Gal. 2:10) You would think that welfare programs would be supported by Christians who value the care of the poor. However, many evangelicals abhor welfare, and want to do away with it. I don’t blame them, the qualification and screening processes that are involved in welfare are sub par. I don’t think that it should be abolished, but serious reform needs to take place.

The War on Poverty of the 1960 was a legitimate push to reduce the poverty gap. I think the leaders who passed legislation had very good intentions and wanted to genuinely help. But they did not consider the brokenness of people. People, by nature, have character flaws. There is a reason that Paul encourages the Thessalonian believers to avoid idle people since we have a tendency towards idleness. Character can really influence behavior. And in the case with welfare, relief to people who suffer from laziness only increased their laziness. Dr. Carl Ellis says it was like pouring water on a grease fire. Water is effective for wood fires, but when applied to grease fires, it increases the flames. The war on poverty and the development of these welfare programs helped those wood fires (i.e. poor people who suffered from bad circumstances (fires, floods, company downsizing, etc.)), but it increased the flames of the grease fires (i.e. poor people with bad character). There is something to be said about culture too.

The Bible defines the poor as those who are generally oppressed by the rich, or are marginalized. Often the foreigner, the sick, and the widow were considered the poor of scripture. In light of this, how should the church respond to our current system of welfare. The church is uniquely equipped to deal with people with bad character and a poor value system. How can we help push reform of welfare so that the lazy don’t become lazier, but are empowered to live a life that is good and pleasing to God? I have my ideas, but what do you think?

Defending Noah

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“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” Genesis 6:9b

It has finally released! Aronofsky’s film Noah has hit the big screen and is causing quite a stir in the media. I was looking forward to this movie a few months ago, but as I have heard on so many websites and social media networks that it is not the hype I was anticipating. The problem is the movie is unbiblical. It does not reflect the true biblical story. Well…. most movies that try to portray biblical stories are usually inaccurate, and I’m okay with that. Every actor who has played Jesus as been usually a brown- straight-haired-white man, and his disciples look the same. And most of these movies are really good, and are great blessings to people. Wholly inaccurate, but helpful.

I have not seen all Aronofsky’s film in its entirety. Admittedly, I fell asleep about midway through the movie. What I did observe were biblical themes that I believe all Christian can affirm. Themes such as sin, judgment, new creation and God being the Creator and themes of mercy. These are the things that we can say are real and true, and really does speak to us in many ways. I don’t think a movie has to be completely accurate in order to have a real impact. Take for example the movie Pearl Harbor. The only thing real about this particular movie was, perhaps, the violence. Same with the movie Titanic. DeCaprio’s character more than likely did not exist on the real Titanic. Both of these movies, while pretty inaccurate, had a very huge impact (both were nominated for several Academy Awards, and both grossed millions of dollars in theaters), and in my opinion were very “good” movies.

For those who think that Aronofsky’s Noah is a mockery of the biblical story, I asks you “why so critical of this movie?”. Should an artist have the freedom to create what ever he/she wants? Not too many criticized Mel Gibson for his artistic rendition of the Passion of the Christ.  Why? Was it more accurate? How do you know? Instead of criticizing a work, try affirming it first if you can. I think this Noah has great echos of truth. And I recommend believers to go see the movie, and take your unbelieving friends with you. Affirming the truth in this movie is a great evangelistic tool. You know the whole story. Because of the severe depravity of man, God decided that he would bring judgement upon the earth. But Noah was a man who walked with God. While the hearts of man were still corrupt, God had mercy on Noah and his family and spared their lives. He delivered them from judgment by sealing them in an ark. But now one has come who is a far greater “ark” than Noah’s. Jesus, the Godman, has come and in him, we find mercy from God’s judgment. This is the story that we know and love. My question, then is how can we use Aronosky’s rendition of Noah to show the true story? Think about it!

The Meta Narrative of Scripture

The meta-genre of Scripture is narrative.  The Bible is the narrative of “God’s works in our world on our behalf.”  (John Calvin)

I recently asked a group of college students to write out for me a brief definition/explanation of what is the meta-narrative of the Bible. I purposefully used the word “meta-narrative” because so many are unfamiliar with it, and I wanted them to go look it up and find out. About a week later they sent me their responses, and while they did a pretty good job following what I asked, no one fully answered the question. So I thought I would write what I understand the grand narrative or meta-narrative of the Bible to be. Of course, each of these areas that I will discuss can be talked about for days and days- I have only a few moments! Getting to the point, a good one line definition of what is the meta-narrative of scripture is given in the following: The essence of the Christian religion (the story of the bible) consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God.  – Calvin

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The image above nicely sums up the entirety of Scripture. God has had a plan from the very beginning, and that plan was to enjoy his creation. Genesis talks about how God walked in the garden in the coolness of the day. This paints a real picture of God enjoying what he created. Shalom was established, and God was present. The Westminster Shorter Catechism question 1 says that the “chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”. Man was created to enjoy God, and God created everything so that he might enjoy it- sounds like a perfect plan to me. Even though scene two happens (I will discuss what each scene means in the picture above) God’s plan was/is still the same- to enjoy his creation. The Bible is the story of how God, in spite of the fallenness of Man and the corruption of his creation, reconciles his people and his creation back to himself, so that shalom is established once again.

The picture above is what is often recognized as the biblical worldview. Each “scene” is labeled as the following: Creation, Fall/Rebellion, Redemption, Restoration/Consummation. We abbreviate this C-R-R-R.

**Much of this is credited to the great minds of John Calvin, Herman Bavinck, and Albert Wolters.

Begin with Creation. Genesis outlines creation.  Genesis 1:31- 2:3 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done”. There is a lot you can unpack in these few verses, but what I want to emphasize is that God calls his creation good. Everything about what He created was perfect. Notice the first picture in the biblical world view above- everything is plush, and in order functioning as he intended. Creation and everything about it is inherently good. Even Adam was perfect in every way. He walked in the presence of God and was not consumed.  Adam was holy- he was righteous in every way.

The next picture or scene in the meta-narrative is Rebellion or Fall. Genesis 3 records for us the Fall of Mankind. “Now the serpent was craftier than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Gen. 3:1-7)  If you didn’t notice, sin/rebellion was not one of the things that God created in his good a perfect creation. Sin does not belong in the structure of God’s created order. Sin is an alien intruder, a parasite. Just like any parasite, it infects. It has infected God’s good creation. Though touched by sin, the world (as creation) is still inherently good (e.g., Psa.24:1; 1 Tim.4:4-5).

Human beings are responsible for infecting creation. God is not to blame for the evil that is now present in creation. Berkouwer, a famous theologian says it this way, “The biblical a priori is that God is not the source, the cause, or the author of man’s sin”. You may ask yourself how did man throw all of creation out of kilter-so to speak? Imago Dei or the Image of God. Adam (mankind) was made in the image of God, and he was given dominion or authority over all of creation. Man is the representative head over the earthly creation. Therefore, he was the federal head or in simpler terms “the president” of all of creation. So as Adam goes, so goes all that he governs- namely creation. Sin results in Adam’s alienation from God, from other human beings, and from the very ground from which he came. This is bad. But the story doesn’t end here. The remainder of the OT is about God bearing with the sins of a rebellious people and showing them unmerited love.

The next scene is Redemption. The hope of God’s restoration. Grace was very present in the Old Testament, in spite of what some theologians say. God described his character as “a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exod. 34:6-7) And he was exactly who he said he was. He proved himself over and over again to his people- even after they continued to rebel and break his covenant. When we come to the New Testament, we see grace revealed in flesh, in the God-man Jesus Christ. Grace covers sin.  Its goal is removal and restoration; the removal of sin and the restoration of creation. Grace accomplishes two things: it restores creation and it restores humanity. Herman Bavinck, a great systematic theologian, says this about the restoration of creation, “Christianity did not come into the world to condemn and put under the ban everything which existed beforehand and everywhere, but quite the opposite, to purify from sin everything that was; and thus to cause it to answer again to its own nature and purpose…[…] Christianity does not introduce a single substantial foreign element into the creation.  It creates no new cosmos, but rather makes the cosmos new, It restores what was corrupted by sin.  It atones the guilty and cures what is sick; the wounded, it heals.” Calvin says, “Christ came not for the destruction of the world, but for its deliverance.”  Bavinck goes on to say, “In his redeemed state what was lost in fallen man is restored.  Redemption is God’s act, not the sinner’s.  Because fallen man lacks both the objective power to earn God’s grace and the subjective power even to turn to Him for grace, salvation must be God’s gift.  Salvation is not a de novo (literally from new or afresh) creation, but a renewal or restoration of that trust which existed in purity in unfallen man.  Even though trust in renewed man is God’s gift, it is not something contrary to his nature.” “It is beyond the powers of his nature as sinful man; but is something which belongs to human nature as such, which has been lost through his and which can be restored only by the power of God.  In this sense faith remains natural even in the renewed sinner.”

The fourth and final scene of the biblical grand narrative is Re-creation/Restoration or Consummation. The goal of redemption is the recreation of the cosmos into the kingdom of God (Matt.19:28). Christ will renew all things. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are the central and crucial component of this final scene. Often times, Christian jump straight to Jesus. The student I asked about this had no problem with the gospel- in fact, they jumped straight to the gospel. I’m not reducing the importance of the gospel (it is the climax of the story) and the work of Christ, but the biblical narrative is kind of front loaded. Jesus’ work comes towards the end. If you don’t set up the beginning correctly, you lose the weight of what Jesus really accomplished. “God’s honor consists precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, and the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin”. Calvin

Wolters writes, “upon the invasion of sin into the world through the disobedience of our first parents, God commits himself to the defeat of the forces of sin and death that oppose his good rule and damage his creation.  In short, redemption always takes place in reference to and as the restoration of creation.  It is only as God is the Creator that he is the Redeemer.  Redemption is nothing less than the holy jealousy of the Creator God for his creation”.   “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psa.124:8).  Our Redeemer can be none other than the one who with power, wisdom and delight in the works of his hands made us in the first place. God will be faithful to his creation! This is something to rejoice about!

Unchurched and Church Clothes

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10

I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings. 1 Cor. 9:22b-23

Lecrae has socked the world again with his recent release of the album Church Clothes Vol. 2. Much like the first volume, Lecrae takes a hard stand against hypocrisy on the modern western Church. The second volume is definitely more behavior oriented, instead of an “in your face” gospel message. Many have taken issue with this. However, I’m convinced that there is a strong biblical theology that runs underneath the entire album. What blesses me the most, in my opinion, is the way he juxtaposes the accepted customs of his listeners with ideas and stories of a healthier lifestyle, one found through God. Not an explicit gospel message (not intended either), but a gospel inspired one.

My point, however, was not to talk about the album’s content (whether or not it is biblically sound). But I want to is Lecrae’s technique or method of evangelism- that need to reach an “unchurched” audience. Many in the church have spoken critically about Lecrae’s album. They don’t like. I wondered why? Maybe because the beats were to close to secular rap? Maybe because the lyrics were too worldly? Lecrae should have used more Christanese. Maybe they don’t like it because he collaborated with “secular” artist on some tracks? I could go into another discussion about art, and how we can appreciate art expression as something created by a beautiful, loving, and artistic God, but I’ll save that for another blog. I had a dialogue with a brother in the faith a few days ago about it. He says, “I find his [Lecrae’s] new approach sinful and ineffective…” I couldn’t help but to pause and shake my head. In fact, I think Lecrae has it right!!! As I survey scripture, I see very similar “techniques” employed by the ultimate evangelist, Jesus Christ.

As we look at Luke 19, with the story of Zacchaeus, we see the same technique used from Jesus. Jesus, the God of all Glory, Holy in every way, decides to sit at the table of a very sinful man. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He also was a Jew. I’m not going to go into the details of the Roman tax system, but suffice it to say, it was corrupt. These tax collectors exploited the people for their money, and became very wealthy. To make matters worse, Zacchaeus was a Jew, who exploited other Jews. He was hated by his ethnic brothers and sisters. It was one thing for the Romans to exploit the Jews, but it was another for your own Jewish brother to exploit his people. The religious people thought that Zacchaeus was just a worthless sinner- to hell with him! In verse 5, Jesus calls Zacchaeus, who at this point is in a tree, and says that he must spend time with Zacchaeus and his family tonight. I want you feel the weight of what Jesus is doing. He knows that Zacchaeus is a sinner- he lives in a world where corruption reigns. Why does Jesus spend time with Zacchaeus? This was the question being asked in the grumbling crowd. Why is Jesus spending time with a “great sinner”? The answer is simple. In order for Jesus to share himself and his love with Zacchaeus and his family, he needed to be near him. He needed to enter into his world for a moment and influence Zacchaeus’ life. This is evangelism 101. Sharing Jesus is our primary goal, but we can only do that if we are near them; if we are granted access into their world.

Some might take offense at this saying “We don’t need to necessarily need to enter their home to influence. If we just preach the gospel, then they will hear and listen.” I think the Apostle Paul would answer this question with a “Yes, but…” The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16), but God has chosen the Church to be the catalyst- to be the vehicle that delivers that gospel. Most unbelievers, as Lecrae has eloquently pointed out in 8 bars and a chorus, do not want to hear from the Church, because the church (notice the difference) has not been upfront or “real” about sin and grace. Why? I don’t know… maybe pride. We want to appear like we have it all together. If we had it all together, Jesus would not have gone to the cross. Unbelievers want to hear that sin and temptation is real, it doesn’t go away even after being saved! But God by his Spirit has given us the power to endure and overcome, and grace when we fail.

Paul was a real evangelist. Whatever he needed to do to win some over to saving faith, he was ready to do it. In 1 Cor. 9 he says, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak…” Lecrae is embodying this scripture. So why do we condemn his method?

In some ways, I think the church has become hypocritical. I’m a church boy. I grew up in the church, so I know what church looks like. I currently attend what would be considered the typical church experience. Men in suits and ties, and women in fancy dresses and hats. We sing the typical church song, and do the typical church liturgy. Now, there is not inherently wrong with that, but it makes me wonder why the “unchurched” folks who stumble in the doors don’t stay very long. We talk a lot about holiness, but we don’t really talk about sin as a reality in our lives. It is one thing to be holy, but when temptation has actually knocked down our door (it happens) what do we do? My food for thought is this: Have we really entered into their world? Have we really became, as Paul would say, “to those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law”? I don’t know what it is that drives them away from the church, but I know that they are listening to Lecrae. Lecrae is heading in a good direction. Our responsibility as his brothers and sisters in the faith is to pray for him. Pray for the album. Pray for the church, that it would embody evangelism as Jesus did so many years ago.

The Mission of God’s People: Being Missional in the Workplace

What does it mean to be missional? What is the biblical definition of mission? What does mission have to do with me, since I’m not a missionary? All of these questions are real, and have at one point in our lives have been real questions on our hearts. I want to take a closer look at the biblical definition of mission, and how it is to have an effect on our everyday lives. I want to first begin by building the argument that we, as covenant people, must be engaged in missions. Then I will move to our engagement in the public square. Lastly, I hope to offer suggestions on how we can engage people with missional intentions at our places of work.

  1.        Shaping a Missional Hermeneutic

The most quoted and common scripture used for mission is Matthew 28:18-20. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is an important missional scripture, however, much has been missed as a result of a misplaced emphasis.  As I have heard this scripture preached and taught, much emphasis has been placed on the word “go”. “Go is an imperative used as a command to go into the world.” As a result of this emphasis, many have left with the understanding that this command is primarily for foreign missions. Most lay people are not sure how to deal with this in their own sphere of life. So as a result, mission is abandoned. This is a misinterpretation of the scripture. In fact, the Greek text has the word “go” in the present participle- participle of attendant circumstance. The function of the participle of attendant circumstance is to highlight and emphasize the main verb which is “to make disciples”, in which case should be the focus of this section of scripture. Christ is interested in us making disciples. It is not only the duty of those called to the mission field, but it is the duty of every one who would declare Jesus as their Savior and King- where ever God calls us to live.

2.       Missional Engagement in the Public Square

Genesis 2:18-20 records for us God’s first commission of work. “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field”. God intended for man to work. He created so that man would have something to apply his hands and mind to. Work was to be pleasant for mankind. Adam was to preform it as worship to his God. However, as a result of Adam’s rebellion, humanity’s performance of work is now broken. But God is in the redeeming business, and he desires to redeem “work” as well.

God has called each of us to a different sphere of life. God has covenant people in the North, South, East and West. Some have been called to the Pastorate or the mission field. Others have been called to the office place. Still others are called to the blue collar spheres of life. Where ever he calls us, where are to effect and infect our spheres of life.

My Dad is one of the greatest men that I know. He is a man who is committed to God, and his family. He will work his fingers to the bones in order that his family has what they need. I can never remember a time when I needed something that he did not provide for me. My Dad is a blue collar worker. God has blessed him with a gift to use his hands. It seems like he can do just about anything. His profession is HVAC/ Heating and cooling but if you need him to be an electrician, he can put on that hat. If the job requires him to be a contractor, or mason, or carpenter, he is able to change hats and do the work. And I see how God uses him to influence. Since he is a business owner, he interacts with people continuously. In the HVAC industry, there is a great deal of temptation to take advantage of the customer, since it is such as specialized industry. I have always seen my Dad treat the customer with respect and diginity- never has he tried to con people out of their money. In fact, he often underbids the jobs. The beautiful thing is that people notice it- people are aware that there is something different about my father. People are drawn to him, and as a result he is able to show the love of Christ while he works.

God wants us to work. And while we go out and work in the market place, he wants us to represent him, to show his love to people who do not know it. Apostle Paul was well aware of this truth. He was a tent maker. Every day, he would go to the marketplace and set up his tent shop, and sell his tents so that he might earn his living. It was through his tent selling that he would meet numerous individuals that he could minister and give the gospel. Peter and John were fisherman by profession. Timothy became Bishop of the church at Ephesus (according to other historical records). No matter what sphere of life God calls us to, we ought to remain missional. Your vocation is important to God, we are called to embody the gospel in every area of life in order that we might transform the world.

3.       Practical Engagement in Mission

What does real-life missions look like? It can look many different ways. I hope to offer just a few practical suggestions that might help you embody Christ in your workplace.

  •        Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.

One of the greatest and most effective ways of evangelizing is through relational interactions. Let’s take a cue from Jesus. Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke emphasizes Jesus relational attitude. Even though these people were viewed as the lowest of the city, Jesus desire to be near them. And they were drawn to him! While nobody else cared, they knew Jesus cared.  As a result, he was able to effectively minister to them, just because he desired to know who they were. John Piper, former Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, says “We should find people interesting”. Find people interesting, genuinely get involved in people lives- this is how we can most effectively minister.

  •       Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.

Prayer changes things! When we offer prayers to God, he promises that he hears them and is ready to act on our behalf.  James 5:16c says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” In other words, our prayers have power! Maybe you can pray for that coworker that you have been eating lunch and developing a relationship with.

  •        Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others

This may seem kind of childish, but people enjoy being given free stuff, even if it’s just a snack. People might wonder why you are so happy, or why you choose to give your things away- this opens a door for the Gospel (Jesus gave more than a snack to his friends, he gave his very life).

  •       Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.

Have you ever known someone who complained all the time? Everything about their life is negative. There complaining even causes a sphere of negativity around them. Complaining is destructive and personally debilitating, and certainly not one of the fruits of the Spirit that are to be manifested in the lives of believers. It is sobering to think about those in scripture who though complaining would get them anywhere. For the people of Israel, their grumbling and complaining got them no where. In fact, it led to their sin of idolatry which caused them to remain in the dessert longer.

  •       Find others that live near you and create a car pool

Why not fellowship with other coworkers while reducing your carbon foot print?  Besides, God has entrusted the care of his creation to us, we should steward it well by reducing carbon emission. Seems pretty logical to me! Either way, this goes back to relationship building. Are we intentional about being in relationship with those whom we do live with so closely? We should be, this should be our missional motivation.

  •         Lead the charge in organizing others to help co-workers in need

If you have been involved in any type of mercy ministry, you will know that the first steps in ministering to those in need, is to actually meet that need. A hungry man has a hard time listening to you while he is still hungry, but once you feed him he will be more willing to hear what you are saying. In our stressed economy, it is probable that you have a coworker that is experiencing a hardship. How great of a gospel proclamation could you make to someone than meeting a need of theirs?

Here are a few others:

  1. Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.
  2. Ask someone who others typically ignore if you can grab them a soda or coffee while you’re out.
  3. Invite your co-workers in to the service projects you are already involved in.
  4. Make every effort to know the names of co-workers and clients along with their families (this goes a long way).

There are a number of things that we can do be missional at our workplaces. God has redeemed, and is redeeming every aspect of his creation. Humanity’s work is no less important to God. He has called to these spheres of life and we are required, mandated, and commissioned to influence it.

Exegetical Paper- Colossians 1:3-8

1.    Introduction

In this paper, I hope to address some key points in the Epistle to the Colossians to help us understand what exactly Paul is saying, specifically dealing with chapter 1 verses 3-8. I will give some brief background and details, moving to the exegetical analysis of verses 3-8, and concluding with brief summary and final thought.

Authorship

While most of us attribute Paul to writing the letter to the Colossians, there are some very compelling arguments that suggest Paul may not have physically written this letter. The most compelling is the style upon which Colossians was written. It is unlike any of the letters of Paul’s critical canon[1]. The language used in this letter is not seen anywhere else in Paul’s work. However, the subject matter is very different form the others, which could be the result of the different language. Some scholars even argue that the theology on Colossians is quite different, in terms of eschatology, ecclesiology, Christology, and tradition[2]. I am in agreement with Moo that it probably was not physically written by Paul (at least the earlier half). Paul used a scribe to write his words and ideas, and at the end wrote the thanks and encouragements himself.

Background

Dating the letter to the Colossians is a rather difficult task. This letter, nor the city of Colossae is ever mentioned in any other place. The only evidence for date and origin lies within the letter itself. From the letter we find out that Paul was a prisoner at the time. From the book of Acts we determine 3 occasions of where Paul was imprisoned: Philippi, Caesarea, and Rome. Some believe that Paul may have spent some time in prison in Ephesus, which then becomes a legitimate place of authorship. Looking also at Ephesians and Philemon, the two most closely related letters, we see a lot of overlap in language, and theology. Furthermore, the greetings in Philemon and Colossians are almost identical1.  We also find Tychicus as the carrier of both Ephesians and Colossians, which probably means that they left at the same time. I agree with the origin being Rome, since Ephesians is accepted to originate in Rome during Paul’s last years. Colossians deals with some very new issues, not seen in any other letter. False teaching is the main theme that is being dealt with in this letter. Unlike Paul’s other letter, Colossians does not speak (or attack) a particular person or a particular hearsay that is plaguing the people. Instead, he issues these warnings. Paul never tells us what these false teachings are, but he does tell us how these teachings affect the believers there at Colossae. First, he calls the false teachings a “hollow and deceptive philosophy”1.  Scholars believe this philosophy is wrapped up in this ideas of the fullness of God, worship of angels, things that have been seen upon entering, voluntary worship, humility, and severe treatment of the body2. Paul directly addresses all these issues throughout the letter. Secondly, there were rules being propagated that Paul calls wordly2. These rules were obviously not rooted in Christ, and were not apart of the gospel that was preached from Epaphras who began the church at Colossae. There is said that there may have been a Gnostic Judaist movement in Colossae. Others believe that there was a pagan mystery cult present. Nonetheless, there was something that Paul did not approve of, and the letter to the Colossians was Paul’s initial response. Now looking at the context of chapter 1:3-8, we find that this is at the beginning of the letter in the opening. The opening of the letter sets the stage for Paul’s warnings about the false teachings in chapter 2. So therefore this section (1:3-8) is his Paul’s way of encouraging the Colossians to “understand that their adherence to the gospel of God’s Son provides for all the spiritual blessing and power that they will ever need”1(74).  There is really only one theme in this particular section of the opening, namely thankfulness.  It is the typical epistolary structure that is found throughout Paul’s letters. Paul is giving thanks to those at Colossae who are apart of the body of believers there. It is, however, a very elaborate section of thankfulness that needs some further exegetical analysis. 2.   

Exegetical Analysis

Vs. 3- Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ πατρὶ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ πάντοτε περὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι εὐχαριστοῦμεν 1per. Pl. pres. act. Ind., “we give thanks”. The subject of this is probably Paul and Timothy since Timothy is mentioned in the prescript (1:1). τῷ θεῷ πατρὶ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.  Paul is expressing his thanksgiving to God the Father, literally who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Πατρι is in simple apposition to τῷ θεῷ. This is unusual for Paul, as he usually thanks both God the Father, and Jesus Christ. Some theologians suggest that Paul’s focus on the Father is deliberate, in order to elevate Christ within the letter. He wants to anchor the person of Christ firmly to God the Father1. πάντοτε is an adverb that modifies εὐχαριστοῦμεν. I don’t think it would be accurate to have it modify προσευχόμενοi because firstly, adverbs in NT Greek often follow the verb that they modify, secondly it reflects the usually patterns of Paul epistolary greetings, and thirdly it would seem to be a bit of a exaggeration to say that we are always praying for you in a temporal sense. περὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι which literally means praying on behalf of you. προσευχόμενοι is a present adverbial participle, denoting a durative aspect. The action, i.e. praying, is happening at the same time of the main verb εὐχαριστοῦμεν. So this means that on every occasion that Paul prayed for the Colossians, he gave thanks for them[3]. This carries tremendous weight for the character of Paul that he has dedicated himself to praying and giving thanks for people whom he had never even met.

Vs.4- κούσαντες τν πίστιν μν ν Χριστ ησο κα τν γάπην ν χετε ες πάντας τος γίους ἀκούσαντες is the launching point for the rest of the passage. It is a nom. pl. masc. aor. act. participle used to express cause. This is unlike the usual usage of an aorist participle, which is used to express antecedent action, action that happens before the main verb.  In this case, it is used to express cause, “because we have heard”. τν πίστιν μν ν Χριστ ησο κα τν γάπην ν χετε ες πάντας τος γίους.  Here the “triad” of faith, love, and hope (v.5) are introduced. These are important pillars in the life of the Christian. Naturally, Paul begins with faith. Apart from faith, there would be no Christian existence2.   This faith is in Christ, which describes the sphere in which this faith lives and acts. Love is the practical expression of care and concern for one another. And hope (ἐλπίς) found in verse 5, is what Paul bases faith and love upon. Paul is basically saying that there is a connection through this triad that binds you to the fellow Christians in your region.

Vs. 5- δι τν λπίδα τν ποκειμένην μν ν τος ορανος, ν προηκούσατε ν τ λόγ τς ληθείας το εαγγελίου As was mentioned, the faith and love rests on the hope in verse 5, διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα. This is different form Paul’s usual juxtaposition of faith, hope, and love.  This is the only account where Paul places hope as the foundation of the other two. What this means is that, unlike the usual reference to hope (attitude of hope), he is referring to the “totality of blessings that awaits the Christian in the life to come”2.  There was teachings in Colossae that began to lead the faithful to wonder whether Christ could supply all their spiritual needs, so Paul decides to remind them that their faith and love rests on the solid foundation (i.e. hope) of what God has promised and committed to do for them in the future. To push this point a bit further, Harris writes, “ An objective fact produces subjective attitudes. The inheritance (i.e. hope) of Christians has the effect of stimulating in them stronger faith and deeper love. Your faith and love are based upon what you hope for.”3. This is Paul’s purpose for writing this. ἣν προηκούσατε 2 pl. aor. act. ind. from προακουω, which literally means to hear beforehand. It is referring to the time when they first heard the gospel, instead of the time before they heard the false teaching. ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. Paul uses three very distinct and weighty words to describe the message that was sent through Epaphras. τῆς ἀληθείας (of truth) is an attributive genitive, adjectivally modifying τῷ λόγῳ (in the word). τοῦ εὐαγγελίου is in apposition to τῷ λόγῳ. I think this is an important construction because the emphasis is placed on the word. The emphatic meaning is that the word or message is or contains the truth, and this message is the gospel.

Vs. 6- το παρόντος ες μς, καθς κα ν παντ τ κόσμ στν καρποφορούμενον κα αξανόμενον καθς κα ν μν, φ’ ς μέρας κούσατε κα πέγνωτε τν χάριν το θεο ν ληθείᾳ τοῦ παρόντος εἰς ὑμᾶς. Paul uses this to identify some very real truths about the Colossian church. παρόντος literally means to be present or have come3. So the true gospel has come to them. I think he is using this to say, you have heard the true gospel and it is present among you, do not be fooled by these new false teachings. καθὼς καὶ ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ. I think κοσμος should be defined here as “all of creation”, instead of simply “world”. I think it is appropriate because it is echoed in verse 23 in this way. Also, when we think of the word world, we think of man alone. Paul is not saying that the gospel has touched every man in the world. The emphasis is that the gospel message is exerting power “widely, in many different places”1. Some theologians suggest that Paul speaks to universalism3, that the gospel is universal to all creation. κόσμῳ ἐστὶν καρποφορούμενον καὶ αὐξανόμενον καθὼς καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν. Both of the participles here are present tense, which gives us a durative aspect. However, they have different voices. αὐξανόμενον is passive in voice. But καρποφορούμενον is middle in voice. This has some implications. The subject of the participles is found in the verb ἐστὶν (It is), and “it” is referring to the gospel message. Since καρποφορούμενον is middle in voice, this suggests that the gospel itself continuously bears fruit. This is a great truth about the gospel. Paul also lists καρποφορούμενον and then αὐξανόμενον. A result of the effects of the gospel is that it always bears fruit and grows in the lives of the believer.  Again, he encourages them with truth saying καθὼς καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν. ἀφ’ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσατε καὶ ἐπέγνωτε. Again, Paul is being very strategic to counter the false teachings that were circulating. Paul continuously highlights the reality of Christ in the lives of the believers in Colossae. He uses this clause to say not only has the gospel exerted transforming power among them, but also it has been doing so since the day they first heard it1. τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ. Paul is so concerned with grace and understanding it in relation to the gospel message, that he plainly centers it as the defining transforming moment beginning their lives as believers. This is a good construction, Paul begins with what has happened to the people (the result of the message), then he moves in verse 7 to the messenger

Vs. 7- καθς μάθετε π παφρ το γαπητο συνδούλου μν, ς στιν πιστς πρ μν διάκονος το Χριστο Paul finally introduces the messenger Epaphras in this verse. Little is known about Epaphras. He is only mentioned in Colossians and Philemon. Theologians have inferred that Epaphras was probably a native of Colossae and Paul converted him during his missionary journey in Ephesus1. One important thing to note is that Paul calls him a ἀγαπητοῦ συνδούλου and a διάκονος τοῦ Χριστοῦ. These are very weighty titles for someone who is not apart of the apostolic order. In fact Paul only uses ἀγαπητοῦ συνδούλου one other time in the New Testament, and διάκονος τοῦ Χριστοῦ is only used for a select hand full of people. I think Paul is doing something here. First, he used such strong endorsements to identify the reliability of Epaphras and his commitment to the church in Colossae. Paul has complete confidence in Epaphras2. Secondly, because he has never met the church at Colossae, he strongly asserts that Epaphras is a representative of him. He is an extension of Paul’s ministry. διάκονος τοῦ Χριστοῦ “minister of Christ” or literally “servant of Christ” is the language of honor. Often used in the Old Testament, its usage referred to those people chosen by God and predestined for His service2. Abraham, Moses, David, the Prophets were all servants of God. Verse 7 focuses of Epaphras’ faithfulness as a servant and verse focuses on his reliability as one. I will note here that I did my word study πιστὸς. It is an adjectival modifier of διάκονος “faithful servant”. I found that πιστὸς dates back to at least 500 BC. The semantic range of meaning is rather narrow. Often it was used to denote one who is faithful or trustworthy. In some cases, obedient was used. Overall, all the glosses live in the realm of someone who is trustworthy. Believing is also a possibility in the New Testament. Its frequency of use is low when compared to the translation faithful. In all, this word has held up through time, and there is no reason to believe that it means anything more than faithful. We also encounter a text critical issue in verse 7. The two variants are μν or υμων. I chose μν as the correct variant. It has the earliest witness or reading (papyrus 46), and it gepgraphic distribution is greater. The compliments it shares between the Alexandrian and Western text types hint to its superiority. Furthermore, contextually, μν just reads better. In other words, Epaphras is a fellow servant of ours, of the apostles.

Vs. 8- κα δηλώσας μν τν μν γάπην ν πνεύματι I believe Paul is pleased with the church in Colossae, because he makes it a point to mention their love being displayed there. I think this may be a subtle way of affirming their true conversion and praising them. Love displayed means that they are operating in grace. ἐν πνεύματι. This is probably hinting to the Holy Spirit that is enabling them to love. O’Brien suggest that this phrase indicates that the community’s life was filled with love enabled by the Holy Spirit, which allows them to attend to the needs of the saints2. The believers there would have known about Paul, and would have loved him just as they love other saints in the area. He highlights this truth, which certainly would have help in addressing the issues with the false teaching2.

3.    Conclusion

In accordance with Paul’s usual epistolary greeting, he opens this letter to the Colossians by giving thanks to God for the faith and love of his readers. He tells us that this faith and love that we have in Christ and for others is rooted in a hope that is kept safely in heaven. This hope comes from Christ, himself, through his work on the cross (we get this in the hymn 1:15-20), and this message was given through Epaphras, whom Paul whole-heartedly endorses. This message is continuously bearing fruit and increasing in the Christian life, and is doing so from the time it was first preach by Epaphras. Epaphras is working hard for me, Paul, to deliver to you a worthy gospel message, therefore we must listen to him and not these other false teachers. Paul recognizes that the gospel is working in Colossae and praises them for loving one another in the Holy Spirit. Paul was very pastoral in his approach with these first few verses of Colossians. He affirms that which is true first and foremost, before addressing the issues. This is shepherding at its best. He affirms the reality of Christ in the lives of the believers, not condemning them first, or destroying their hope for believing and probably practicing the false teaching. Keep in mind that these people had never meet Paul, and attacking them would not have been a sensible move. I think all pastors, leaders, and teachers should have the same tactfulness in their approach. Addressing a very real and serious issue, while allowing those in harms way to keep their dignity, and spiritual vitality is so much easier and accepted than doing the opposite, which unfortunately is what I have seen a lot of pastors, leaders, and teacher do in my local and neighboring congregations.


[1] Moo, Douglass. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2008. Print. Pillar New Testament Commentary.
[2] Hubbard, David Allan., and Peter T. Obrien. Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians, Philemon. Waco, TX: Word, 1982. Print.
[3] Harris, Murray J. Colossians & Philemon. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1991. Print.

Storms

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Matthew 8:23-27

Have you ever pondered a storm? Have you ever wondered how out of no where the clouds become dark, and rain begins to fall? Science tells us that it is because of opposing forces (winds) that meet and they have a violent interaction. It is a very mind boggling and amazing phenomenon that only a God could accomplish. But the more amazing thing is the calm that come after a violent storm. Once the clouds pass over, and the winds die down there is peace.

How many of you have ever been in a spiritually violent storm? It seems as if out of no where the winds begin to pick up, and the boat begins to sway more, and the waves seem to take over your boat. A mega storm. I know I have. But I am encouraged, because Matthew lets us in on a little secret above. Not all storm are a result of disobedience (my opposing force), but rather some mega storms are God appointed.

Verse 23 says, “He [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples followed Him.” You may say, “well that’s okay, they were doing what they were supposed to do”. My response is that you are absolutely correct, their job was simply to follow Jesus. But in verse 24 something happens that changes the atmosphere, literally. Matthew writes, “And behold“, which means suddenly, out of no where, they find themselves in the middle of a GREAT storm. How many times have you found yourself walking with Christ, but some how you end up in a storm or valley.

I have been blessed to have had a relationship with both my grand parents. Everything was going great, and out of no where my grandmother passes away. I was rather young at this time. It was a devastating moment in my life. She was a pillar in the family and when she passed it seemed like all the walls would cave in. This certainly was a GREAT storm in my life that really seemed to have come from no where.  I realize now that, while this may have seemed like a storm to me, God was doing something great. He was strengthening the family.

In the latter half of verse 24, notice what Jesus was doing while the disciples were stressing out. He was asleep. How often do we fail to realize that in times of trouble that Jesus is still in the boat. Then he asked his disciples, “Why are you afraid”? Has not the Lord promised you that he would protect you? Has not the Lord promised that He is with you always? I was afraid when my grandmother passed because I was young. But now I’m older, and I understand that God gets the glory when we go through GREAT storms. How often do people who profess Christ forget that Christ is in the boat when there is storms. These are God appointed storms that are making you better. Joseph was exalted to the highest seat of office next to Pharaoh in Egypt.  Joseph was sold into slavery, accused by Potifer’s wife, and jailed. He had some mega storms. But at the end of it all, he recognizes that it was God in his complete sovereignty, who appointed those storms, so that he could hold such position as Pharaoh’s right hand man. That should be our mentality when great storms come.

The next words that Matthew writes are powerful to me. Verse 26 he says, “Then He rose”. In the midst of storm, in the midst of trial, in the midst of trouble, always remember that Jesus rose. And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose. This is his promise. If Jesus, the creator of the universe, who has all authority, whom creation awaits to serve, can sleep then so should we.  Jesus has the power to speak peace in your storm.

Verse 27 concludes with this “And the men marveled…” They were not marveling at the fact that the storm was over but they marveled at the man who rebuked the storm. Once you come out of the storm, dont marvel or glory that the storm is over, marvel at the one who causes the storms to leave. Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.