Monday, September 15, 2014

August Update

Due to some technical difficulties this has been delayed but here is our August update. We have since returned to the Netherlands and will have more updates forthcoming!

August Stewart Chronicles

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Forgiveness of Sins and Zechariah's Benedictus

Zechariah’s prophetic hymn, the Benedictus, celebrates God’s actions to rescue his people in and through the coming Messiah (Luke 1:68–79). Zechariah also prophecies about his son John and his later ministry: “For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76b–77). John would prepare the way by giving people the knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of their sins. This corresponds well to the message or repentance from sin that characterized John’s later ministry (Luke 3:3). Zechariah rightly recognized that political, militaristic, social, and economic deliverance (Luke 1:71, 74) must be preceded by the salvation that could come only through God’s forgiveness of his people’s sin. This is a powerful truth; all the best attempts by mankind to maintain world peace and eliminate poverty, oppression, and tyranny falter at this point. The destructive presence of sin undermines and derails the best intentions and efforts of the human will. Only by decisively dealing with the sin problem can these other issues be addressed. Salvation must start with the forgiveness of sins before its presence can be felt in all the other dimensions of human life and society.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Worshipping alongside Mary's Magnificat

Luke records Mary’s famous hymn, the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46–55. Mary’s hymn should be categorized as a hymn of praise or thanksgiving and as such has many parallels in the book of Psalms. Hymns of praise begin by praising or extolling God and proceed by giving reasons for the praise; these reasons are often introduced with the words “for” or “because.” This pattern is well illustrated by Psalm 117: “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 117:1–2).

Mary began her hymn by praising God: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46–47). Following this introduction of praise, the rest of the Magnificat provides the reasons for Mary’s praise of God. The first three reasons have to do with Mary’s personal situation, while the remaining reasons focus on what God was accomplishing through the birth of her child. The reasons for praise focus briefly on God’s attributes—his might, holiness, and mercy—but primarily highlight God’s actions. These actions are centered on the help God was about to provide for Israel in response to the promises he had made to Abraham and his offspring.

The Magnificat provides us with a model of praise and worship. What would it look like for you to compose a similar hymn? How would you express your praise and thanks to God for sending Jesus and bringing salvation through him and what reasons would you give for your praise (using “for” or “because”)? What attributes or actions of God would you highlight?

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Brief Update

Things have been incredibly busy here in the Netherlands, both in the Stewart household and at Tyndale. It is, however, the best busyness I have ever experienced! God is at work all around us. We will probably wait until after the baby is born to put together an official newsletter with pictures but I wanted to mention a few things now.

On the home-front we have been battling some form of flu for over two weeks now. All six of us went down with it; the boys are back on their feet and Jenny and I are on our way back to full health. Jenny's mom arrived from the airport this morning! She will be here for two months to help with the birth of the baby (two weeks or so from now)!

I spent the first two Sunday's in March preaching at a Ghanian church plant here in Amsterdam. I was translated into a Ghanian dialect and the style of worship brought me back to past mission trips to Africa. The services went very well and it was exciting for me to see the vibrancy and faith of one immigrant community here in the Netherlands. I am scheduled to preach at two different churches between now and May so please pray for this ministry in the local church.

At Tyndale the spring classes are going full-swing; I am teaching four days a week and spending every spare minute preparing for the classes. The morning Greek-reading discipleship group is thriving and we have around five students that voluntarily meet with me every morning for 45 minutes to read and discuss the Greek NT! This is a level of discipleship ministry beyond anything I have heard of or observed in the U.S. Please pray for these students as their hunger for the word of God drives them to pursue God in his word in this intensive way in addition to their normal studies!

Please also continue to pray for a healthy and safe delivery; we will update soon after the baby arrives! Also, please email us with any prayer concerns or needs you may have.

A Risky Faith: Mary's Response

Luke records the angelic announcement to Mary about Jesus' virgin birth. Mary’s final response to Gabriel epitomizes the response of a true disciple: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary’s world was about to be turned upside down; everything was about to change. She had no way of knowing the future repercussions of the angel’s announcement or how she would be able to explain the pregnancy to Joseph and her other family members. Despite all the uncertainties and possible ways in which things could go terribly wrong and end in utter disaster, she chose to willingly submit to God’s plan. She was committed to God and God’s plan no matter what the personal sacrifice or cost. There is nothing in the narrative that indicates that believers should pray to Mary or that Mary gives grace from heaven, but there is every indication in the narrative that this young Jewish girl’s example of complete commitment and fearless submission should be followed by all who consider themselves Christians. How have you responded to God’s call on your life, whatever it might be? Have you withdrawn in fear of the uncertainties of the future and settled for a safe form of Christianity that requires little or no faith and entails little or no risk? That form of Christianity is both rampant and lifeless. What would it look like for you to step out in fearless faith in response to what you know to be God’s plan for your life? Consider Mary, a young, vulnerable Jewish girl whose entire future and hope for a normal life was jeopardized by God’s plan for her life. Mary did not draw back to protect herself and her future. She embraced God’s future and God’s desire for her life. What about you?