Monday, December 9, 2013

Jesus: What's in a name?

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

What is the significance of the name Jesus? The Greek name Jesus is equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua that meant “Yahweh saves.” The name Jesus therefore points to Yahweh’s willingness and ability to save his people and recalls Joshua’s role in leading God’s people into the possession of the land that God had promised. Jesus was a common name at this time in Jewish history and was generally given to sons as a symbolic way for parents to express their hope that God would one day act to save and rescue his people as he had acted in the past.

The First Christmas

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This statement by the angel finds a counterpart near the end of Matthew’s Gospel at the Lord’s Supper. “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matt. 26:27–28). Jesus’s death on the cross accomplishes or enables the forgiveness of sins. Matthew anticipates this earlier in the Gospel when he recounts Jesus’s healing of a paralytic.

"And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven. And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This man is blaspheming'. But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, 'Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Rise and walk?" But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—he said to the paralytic—'Rise, pick up your bed and go home'" (Matt. 9:2–6).

Jesus fulfills the promise of his name, “Yahweh saves,” by saving God’s people from their sins through his death on the cross!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sexual Immorality Then and Now: A look at Paul and Corinth Part 1

Despite the differences between us today and the first readers/hearers of the New Testament there are also some incredible similarities because we are all created in God’s image and have all been affected by sin. One similarity is strongly brought home by looking at some Corinthian slogans or sayings that Paul responds to in 1 Corinthians 6:12–13. Paul had just finished strongly stating that the unrighteous (sexually immoral, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, robbers, drunkards, slanderers) would not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–11). This is strong language: they would not be saved!

In 1 Cor. 6:12–20 Paul immediately responds to some objections or rationalizations for sin, particularly for sexual immorality and the use of prostitutes. In 1st century Corinth it was quite common and culturally acceptable for social, business, and religious feasts and parties to be followed by prostitutes. It was just a normal part of the festivities. This cultural acceptance of sexual immorality is reflected well in modern Amsterdam.

A Roman feast in the time of the Caesars via Wikimedia Commons

Paul quotes two Corinthian slogans or sayings that were used to rationalize their participation in sexual immorality of different kinds. Since Paul interacts with these slogans in this letter it is probable that they were being used by the Christians to defend their practice of sexual immorality.

The first one is: “All things are lawful or permissible for me”; i.e. I can do what I want (1 Cor. 6:12). This is reflected in our modern worldview in which freedom means that I can do what I want and nobody can tell me what to do: if it feels good, I can and will do it; it is not wrong as long as nobody gets hurt. Some of the Corinthian Christians may have thought this was the natural end of Paul’s teaching on Christian liberty but it was also likely a pervasive attitude in Corinthian society. I can do what I want.

The second slogan is: “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will destroy both this [the stomach] and these [food]” (1 Cor. 6:13). This slogan rationalizes sin in two ways. First, it connects sexuality with food and argues that they are both simply natural bodily functions; i.e. when I am hungry I eat and when I have sexual urges I act out on them. With this perspective there is nothing special or unique about our sexuality; it is the same as or other mundane bodily needs. Second, this slogan argues that God will destroy the body and food; i.e. what we do in our bodies does not matter because our bodies will be done away with and will not last forever. Our bodies will eventually die and turn into dust so nothing we do with or is done to our bodies is important.

With these slogans Paul anticipates how his hearers will react to his claim that the unrighteous, including the sexually immoral, will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If you have ever tried to convince someone that pornography, sex outside of marriage, or adultery is sinful and wrong and will separate them from God for eternity you are in Paul’s position here. If you have ever worked in youth ministry you will have been in this situation. Even more similarly, Paul is here trying to convince Christians of these things! How many Christians in our churches today have allowed their attitudes toward sexuality to be altered and shaped by our surrounding culture in which every form of sexual immorality and deviancy is practiced and exalted?

Over the next few weeks I will focus on how Paul responds to these rationalizations and seeks to convince the Corinthians that as Christians they must not engage in the sexual immorality that was rampant in their surrounding society and culture. He lists at least six different reasons in the short space of eight verses (1 Cor. 6:12–20).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Day In The Life...

So, many people have asked me, "What do you do?"  Yes, we did move to be part of a ministry where Alex is the main one involved.  I have not taken up teaching Greek but I am learning the Greek alphabet with the boys!  I am not writing books with deep theological meaning but I have gotten to spend time with some amazing students, from places I can't even pronounce correctly, who have a passion for God, His Word, and to see His kingdom grow!  I have had the opportunity to be a part of a Bible study for ladies in our neighborhood and in the group of around 12 at least 7 different countries are represented!  Our family is working on learning Dutch and I'm learning my southern accent does not help in the least with the guttural sounds found in this language.  Yes, yes, lots going on; but what do I do all day?

I do many of the same things I did when we lived in the States.  For example, I cook, do laundry, teach the boys, weed the garden (or at least try), and go to the grocery store; these are just the things that usually happen every day . . . . Only all those things are done very differently from how  I did them at home.  How are things different?  Well, I'll tell you a wee bit:

Cooking: I love camping.  I grew up going several times a year and we always cooked over a Coleman gas stove.  I, however, was not allowed to use it because "it might blow up."  Enter Jenny's life long fear of gas stoves and then fast-forward to "its hard to find a second hand electric stove in Holland."

Meet my lovely gas still gives me a fright at times but I am slowly learning to appreciate it's instant heat, easy cleaning, and that it still works when the electricity is out!  I have had to tweak a few recipes and spend a lot of time bent over trying to see just how high that flame is but I'm sure we will be best of friends in a few more months!

Laundry: Yeah, that.  Have I ever mentioned just how much 4 little boys can make in one day?  Oh how I miss my super sized top loading washing machine!  Meet my, very wonderful and I'm thankful for it, washing machine.  It lives on the third floor (which is the norm here) and can hold up to 5 kilos of laundry!  Reality check is that 5 kilos is about 11 pounds.  Great laundry washing powers, itty bitty washing space!  It gets the job done and the shortest full cycle is complete in about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Please note none of this is complaining I'm just telling you what you asked: what do you do all day.  Also know that I have good helpers with everything but cooking because "the gas stove might blow up!" ;0)

Teaching the boys: We are thankful to have received our exemption letter in order to be able to homeschool legally for this year!  Currently we have Elijah in 3rd grade, Benjamin in 1st grade,  Paul is doing some Pre-Kindergarten fun and Micah supervises!

We try to have our day of schooling done by lunch but when it comes to science experiments and history projects or if we start a good piece of literature and can't put it down we go over a bit on that goal!


Micah is a very supportive brother during school time!
The small bit of "yard" you have in the front and back of your house is a big deal here.  It is amazing the beauty that some people can grow.  It's amazing the weeds I can grow in the midst of my effort to grow beauty!  We also planted lettuce and broccoli (the slugs ate the plants before they even had a chance), and Elijah planted a pumpkin patch.  Therefore our backyard is mostly pumpkin with some lettuce, a few berry bushes and um...weeds.  The garden of weedin' follows me everywhere I go!

Our bit of grass.  It so rarely has to be mowed its a big deal when Alex borrows the
electric mower to take care of the two minute job!  Even the neighborhood kids come to watch!

If you look closely not only will you see the pumpkin patch and weeds you will also see some very heavy rain and then about one minute later...

...literally one minute later the clouds blew on with the rain and the sun is out!

As for the grocery store, now that is a big change!  We don't have a car so we just bike or walk like many people in Holland.  If the weather is nice I love it and have no complaints, but if it's raining or really windy or really cold I have to admit I really, really have a hard time convincing myself this is fun. Really.  This is so different from our life in NC. Over the past 6 years everywhere we lived there was a grocery store just a two minute drive away.  It's now about a 25 minute walk or a 6 minute bike ride...rain or shine.

As Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Do Everything" starts out:

You're picking up toys on the living room floor for the 15th time today 
Matching up socks 
Sweeping up lost cheerios that got away 

You put a baby on your hip 
Color on your lips and head out the door 

While I may not know you, 
I bet I know you 
Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all? 

Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long 
As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you, 
Cause he made you, 
To do 
Every little thing that you do 
To bring a smile to His face 
Tell the story of grace 
With every move that you make 
And every little thing you do 

To God be the Glory Ya'll!

Introducing our Greek Reading Group (one of my favorite times of the day)

When I was an undergraduate student I greatly benefited from two voluntary study groups. The first was an informal Greek reading group that met for breakfast most mornings. If I remember correctly it was initiated or led by Randy Curtis and J.D. Meade. I met with them when I could and I think Brian Bunnell also met with us. Each morning (when we were able to roll out of bed in time) we ate breakfast together and tried to get through a chapter in our Greek New Testaments. It was in this informal and voluntary time of reading that my Greek clicked and things began to fall into place to enable me to use it on a regular basis moving forward.

Second, a new CIU professor at the time, Steve Baarendse, began a voluntary reading group that met once a week to discuss what we were reading outside of class. During my time in this group we read and discussed Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.

These two groups made a big impact on my development during my senior year and I often determined to facilitate a similar group if God ever led me to minister in a school setting. The time has come!

At the beginning of this semester I began a voluntary Greek reading group. There are no assignments and no needed preparation. We meet for breakfast Monday through Thursday and since beginning in August we have read and discussed John 1-12 in the Greek. My goal is to get through as much of the New Testament as we can between when a student starts and when they graduate. I was not sure if any students would commit to being a part since it is voluntary and there are quite a few competing pressures in a student's life (responsibilities, assignments, and tests that actually carry a grade) but I have been pleasantly surprised by attendance.

It is such a joy for me to study the New Testament in the original languages with students who are committed to loving God with all their heart, mind, and strength.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Practicing Practical Prayer with Paul (I couldn't prevent the alliteration)

We recently hosted a weekend seminar here at Tyndale Theological Seminary. The topic was on developing one's prayer life and several of the missionary-teachers here presented on various topics. The seminar was advertised in the local churches and many people came from a wide range of churches.

My presentation was on prayer in Paul's epistles. I tried to identify and organize every occurence in which Paul prayed or asked for prayer in his epistles. I will not claim that it is exhaustive but it is pretty close :-) The goal was to encourage and equip people to pray for the kind of things Paul prayed for. This is a good antidote to shallow or self-centered praying. Feel free to freely copy and use the handout to strengthen your own prayer life and encourage others.

Prayer in Paul's Epistles

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Musings: Perseverance Produces Assurance

For several Mondays I have been posting about the relationship of our present existence to God’s promised future because I think it is an important topic that is under-discussed in our churches. One text that discusses salvation in both the present and the future while also discussing the link between the two is Romans 5:1–11. How do we know we will be saved in the final judgment? What is the basis of our assurance of salvation?

“(1) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character [dokimē: evidence, proof that something is genuine), and character [dokimē] produces hope, (5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Before salvation: We are described as weak (5:6), ungodly (5:6), sinners (5:8), and enemies (5:10).

We have been saved: Because of Christ’s death (5:9–10) and our faith (5:1) we now have been justified (5:1, 9; declared to be in the right or righteous) and reconciled to God (5:10, 11; the restoration of a broken relationship). We also now have peace with God (5:1), access to grace (5:2), and joy (5:2).

We will be saved: Because of our justification and reconciliation we have confidence that we will be saved from God’s wrath (5:9, 10) in the future day of judgment.

How do we as believers have such incredible confidence that we will be saved on the final day of judgment? Paul here grounds our confidence in two realities. First, in Christ the future verdict from the final judgment has moved into the present and right now, in the present, Christians hear the verdict of “not guilty!” This is the meaning of justification! The future verdict has been declared in the present over those whose lives are bound up with Christ’s life.

Second, our faithful endurance in the midst of the suffering of this present time period produces evidence or proof (dokimē) that God’s declaration of “not-guilty” in the present time will match his verdict in the final judgment. I think the ESV’s translation of this word as “character” obscures this point (the NASB does a bit better with “proven character”). Paul’s point is that we as Christians can rejoice in the midst of suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces evidence, proof, or assurance that we are indeed in the right (justified). This assurance, forged in the furnace of endurance, then results in confident hope.

This two-fold basis of assurance guards against false assurance or false confidence. We have confidence based upon the promises of God that our faith has already resulted in justification and reconciliation. This confidence is confirmed or made more sure by our endurance and perseverance which results in proof or evidence that we will indeed be saved in the final judgment.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Musings: A Christian Approach to Homosexuality

I have been studying the presence of "justification" language in the New Testament for a future post and came across this text in 1 Corinthians. I have always (as long as I can remember anyway) thought that Paul, without explicitly trying, provided a sketch of a Christian approach to homosexuality in these verses.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

For me, this particular text makes several important points.

1. Yes, homosexuality is a serious sin; the practice of which will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.

2. Homosexuality is one sin among many, it is not singled out here for special comment as particularly worse or somehow more evil or more corrupt. It is a sin alongside heterosexual immorality, adultery, and other non-sexual sins. There is no basis here whatsoever for homophobia or hate-speech. Homosexuality was wide-spread in the ancient Roman world.

3. “And such were some of you”: Some, if not many, in the Corinthian church had formerly practiced homosexuality but did so no longer. There is a clear line between those who in Christ are being rescued and transformed and who have hope for future entrance into God’s kingdom and those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

4. There is hope: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” As a sin and temptation homosexuality can and must be dealt with the same way a Christian is to deal with any sin and temptation (see point 2); i.e., the one who struggles with homosexual lust is in the same position as the one who struggles with heterosexual lust. Both sins will exclude one from God’s kingdom, yet there is hope for those who struggle with either or both; it is the hope and reality of forgiveness and transformation that we as Christians cling to as we pursue righteousness in the present by grace and by the power of God’s indwelling Spirit.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Increasing Global Persecution of Christians

Check out this article on recent global persecution of Christians: The war on Christians » The Spectator. The mainstream media rarely draws attention to the global persecution of Christians.

We know from Revelation 6:9-11 that things will get worse in this regard before the end.

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been."

May those who are suffering for Christ prove faithful to the end and may we, by God's grace, also prove faithful when we are called upon to join them in their tribulation and suffering.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Convocation At Tyndale (Or, Why I Am So Glad To Be Serving Here)

Our annual convocation ceremony took place here at Tyndale a few weeks ago. Convocation is an evening to assemble at the beginning of the school year to worship and corporately commit ourselves to God for the upcoming academic year. During the service there was a time for all the faculty to stand and make the following pledge together:

"We, the faculty of Tyndale Theological Seminary, pledge before our Lord and before those gathered the following:

We promise by God's grace to maintain a vibrant and personal devotion to Jesus Christ in our own lives, to be regularly in the Word of God, to be people of prayer, and to participate actively in the local church. We will endeavor to be Christian examples, living lives that are consistent with what we teach.

We promise to be submitted to and to teach, with the Holy Spirit's enablement, the whole counsel of God--both the truths that are popular and those that are unpopular. We promise as a community of scholars to pursue excellence in all our various disciplines.

And finally, we pledge to encourage you, our students, to apply the truths you learn and seek to live by them in your Christian pilgrimage. We pledge to be available to help you, to encourage you, to counsel you, to challenge you, and at times to admonish you.

As a team of professors, we will endeavor, by God's grace to make this one of the best and most important years of your life. May our Lord give us grace to that end."

It is a joy for me to teach and serve at a place that annually publicly declares its commitment to God, Scripture, and our students in such a way. The students also corporately made a similar pledge later in the service.

Monday Musings: Salvation as an "End-Time" Reality that Has Broken into Our Present

Last week I introduced the word picture of a giant wall separating our present lives from God’s promised future, our future eternal existence with God in the new heavens and earth. In my own mind I picture this wall somewhat like the Hoover Dam. The wall will be completely removed when Christ returns and God recreates the heavens and earth as described in Rev. 21:1–8.

Jesus’ resurrection shot through the wall like a bullet, creating a hole through which “end time” realities such as resurrection life and power, the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God, and new creation itself began to pour through into this present evil age characterized by sickness, sin, and death. John notes that Jesus anticipated this happening when he said, “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39; ESV throughout). Jesus’ “glorification” (i.e. his death, resurrection, and ascension) opened the way for the end-time reality of the Spirit to invade the present.

Theologians coined the phrase “inaugurated eschatology” (since theologians, of course, like big words) to describe this reality. “Inaugurated” points to the fact that these things have already begun while “eschatology” points out the fact that the things that have already begun relate to the eschaton or end times.

Salvation has broken through alongside the other end-time realities that have come pouring into the present through the resurrection and the activity of the Holy Spirit.

Despite how we often talk about salvation it is first and foremost an end-time (eschatological) reality. Those who believe in Christ will be saved (i.e. following Christ’s return they will survive the final judgment and experience eternal life in God’s new creation). Many verses throughout the New Testament point to this future timing of salvation.

We Will Be Saved

• “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22).

• “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:9–10).

• “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11).

• “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15).

• “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5).

• “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:8–9).

• “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16).

• “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim 4:18).

• “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14).

• “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9:28).

• “Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).

• “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation1—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2).

All of these verses clearly communicate the future tense of salvation—salvation is an end-time event associated with the return of Christ and the final judgment. From this perspective we have not yet been saved. We have not yet passed the final judgment and are not yet living in God’s new creation.

We Have Been Saved

As with the other end-time events that have come crashing into the present though the hole or crack opened up by Jesus’ resurrection, salvation has also come barreling into our present. This is why the New Testament authors can confidently talk about salvation as a thing that we possess in the present. Christians have been saved!

• “For in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24a).

• “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:5).

• “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8–9).

• “Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim 1:9).

• “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5).

We Are Being Saved

As Christians we have confidence that we will be saved because we have been saved. But what about the present time? What connects our past salvation to our future salvation? The process of salvation. As Christians we are being saved in the present.

• “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

• “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:2).

• “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor 2:15).

This understanding of salvation as past, present, and future is important for how we understand the Christian life. It also influences our understanding of assurance of salvation, the place of warnings in the New Testament, and a host of related discussions. We have been saved. We are being saved. We will be saved. Salvation is primarily a future event that we have access to in the present in Jesus Christ and because Jesus’ resurrection punctured the wall separating our present existence in this difficult and evil world and God’s promises concerning our existence in his future new creation. We are living in a time of partial fulfillment even as we long for and wait for full-fulfillment at Jesus’ return.

May your life this week be marked by a growing awareness and experience of the end-time realities that have broken into and are transforming our present existence in this world!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Musings: A Crack in the Wall Separating our Present from God's Future

As Christians we live as future oriented people. We have a clear sense of how God is going to act in the future to set things right in his creation by removing sickness, death, sorrow, pain, and sin (Revelation 21). One way this knowledge of the future impacts our present is by filling us with hope, a hope based on the firm promises of God. This hope carries us through the difficulties, problems, and sicknesses that characterize our present existence.

In addition to hope, the future impacts our present existence by invading it. In Christ and because of Christ’s death and resurrection future realities have been unleashed in this present evil age that is characterized by sin and death. In Christ the future has invaded the present! I want to draw attention to a few ways the future has invaded the present in this post and will discuss a few more ways in a future post.

The Kingdom of God: When we look at the symbolic visions of Revelation 21 and 22 we are seeing the full, future realization of the kingdom of God. God’s reign and rule will be physically and tangibly present in the new heavens and earth. God will be with us and will personally wipe every tear from every eye (Rev. 21:4). The nations of the earth will exist in perfect allegiance to God (Rev. 21:24–26) and the leaves of the tree of life will bring healing to the nations (Rev. 22:2). God’s reign and rule will perfectly extend through and be acknowledged by all creation. This future kingdom is spoken of throughout the New Testament (Matt. 6:10; 25:34; Luke 19:11; 21:31; Acts 14:22; 2 Thess. 1:5; 1 Cor. 15:50).

In Christ this future kingdom has invaded the present! Christ told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was in their midst (Luke 17:21); of course it was in their midst because it was embodied in the king himself. Jesus directly links his miracles to the coming of the kingdom: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20; cf. Matt. 12:28). Even as we await the coming of God’s future kingdom we experience it to a partial degree in the present as we submit ourselves to Christ’s reign, pledge and live our lives in allegiance to him, and extend his rule and presence everywhere we go. We belong to the kingdom now and reap the benefits of the kingdom even as we wait with longing and expectation for the full realization of the kingdom in the future. Paul notes that, “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). This passage clearly links the present experience of God’s kingdom, reign, and rule with another future reality that has invaded the present, the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit: In the Jewish thinking of Jesus’ day the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all humanity was an event associated with God’s future kingdom. This expectation was based upon Joel 2:28–29 (see also Ezek. 36:25–27; 37:14) which stated, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” Following Jesus’ resurrection the Holy Spirit was indeed poured out upon Jesus’ followers as recounted in Acts 2. Peter directly interprets the outpouring of the Spirit as a fulfillment of Joel 2:28–19 in Acts 2:16. The fruit of the Spirit is thus the fruit of the life of our future existence in God’s kingdom being supernaturally produced and developed in the midst of this present evil age (Gal. 5:22–23). We are commanded to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) and the Spirit is our seal and the guarantee of our future inheritance in God’s future kingdom (Eph. 1:13–14). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit follows Jesus’ resurrection; thus pointing out another feature of the future that has invaded the present: resurrection.

Resurrection: Most first century Jews, excluding the Sadducees, believed in a future resurrection that would be followed by vindication for the righteous and judgment for the wicked. This makes Jesus’ statement to Martha particularly startling. “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:23–26). Jesus was the living embodiment of future resurrection power.

Following Christ’s resurrection Paul makes it clear that those who are in Christ share in his resurrection and the power of his resurrection even in the present! Believers are united to Christ and share in his resurrection and power over sin and death: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. . . . Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. . . . If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 6:5, 13; 8:11). Our present experience of resurrection power is directly linked to the Spirit that indwells us. Finally, in Ephesians 2:6 Paul describes Christians as those who have been raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places right in their present concrete, physical existence on earth. Our boots are solidly on the ground in this present evil age, so to speak, but spiritually we are already experiencing the future reality of resurrection!

New Creation: Paul provides a summary description of how the future has invaded the present in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” “New creation” is a way to point to the future world described in Revelation 21 and 22. In Christ this future new creation has broken into this present creation and is at work transforming those who are in Christ! As Jesus used the illustration of the kingdom of God being like leaven slowly spreading through an entire loaf, new creation has broken into the present and is transforming individuals one at a time as it spreads throughout creation (Matt. 13:33).

Jesus’ resurrection could be thought of as the opening event, the crack in the great wall separating our present and God’s future in the new heavens and earth. In Jesus’ resurrection the future resurrection burst through the wall and opened the way for all of these other “end time” realities to come pouring out: the kingdom of God, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, resurrection, and new creation itself. Our present experience of these future realities is as real and concrete as it is partial and incomplete and we long for the day when Christ will return and completely remove, not just crack, the wall separating our present and God’s future.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Announcement: The Final Days of Jesus

I am excited to announce the publication of the first book for which I have made a substantial contribution. I am not listed as an official author but my name appears on the cover with the ambiguous phrase “with Alexander E. Stewart.” This means that although I am not part of the official book contract I made a substantial contribution to the book while working as a research assistant with Dr. Kostenberger.

The book examines Jesus’ final week by carefully comparing each of the four Gospels to each other. We provide the ESV text along with commentary discussing the similarities and differences between the accounts. The goal with this book was to present an academically grounded discussion of this powerful week in history in an engaging manner that could be easily read and understood without advanced academic training. Some scholars only write books for other scholars but this book is for God’s global church. We pray that it will strengthen the faith of God’s people and turn the hearts of its readers to reconsider and reevaluate their commitment to our resurrected savior.

Jenny and I are currently working on an accompanying study guide that will be freely available for download from Crossway. The study guide will help equip Sunday School classes, small groups, and families to reflect on the events that unfolded during this crucial week of Jesus’ life.

The book is currently available for pre-order and will be on shelves January 31, 2014 but I wanted to mention it now because, of course, it is my first book :-). I will post again when it officially hits the shelves and will keep you updated about future writing projects.

Monday Musings: How God's Future Impacts our Present

How does our knowledge of the future affect or impact our lives in the present? One key way is hope. Our certain knowledge of the future fills us with hope in the midst of incredible difficult circumstances in the present: death, disease, natural disasters, and the pain inflicted by the sinful actions of others. This is the way the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 lived as people of the distance who “all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb 11:13).

Revelation 21-22 provides us a visionary picture of the future. The symbolic details of the vision leave much to the imagination concerning what moment-by-moment life will be like but the general outline is quite clear. Here are some of the major contours of this vision.

New Creation: New Heaven and Earth (Rev 21:1; cf. Isa 65:17; 66:22) In fulfillment of the promises made through the prophet Isaiah John receives a vision of the New Creation: God recreation or creation of a new heaven and earth. The judgment visions in Revelation reveal a de-creation of the present order in anticipation of a new creation; the implicit logic being that the one who originally created has the power to de-create and re-create. The absence of the sea in God’s new creation should not discourage avid boaters since the sea is here symbolically representing chaos and disorder. This was a very common symbol in the ancient world.

Existence in God’s new creation is concrete and tangible; we will not exist as disembodied spirits floating around somewhere in space but rather in resurrected bodies in a new, concrete, tangible world.

God’s Direct Presence (Rev 21:3, 7; 22:3; cf. Jer 31:33; Ezek 43:7; 48:35; Hos 2:19-20; Zeph 3:15-17) This is perhaps the most powerful element of John’s vision of the future and comes as the fulfillment of many Old Testament promises and prophecies. Throughout Revelation there is a strong spatial dualism between earth and heaven. Earth is the dwelling place and abode of man while heaven is God’s dwelling place. God’s decrees and judgments from heaven affect the earth and the prayers of the saints on earth ascend to heaven but they are nevertheless two distinct areas. The descent of the New Jerusalem has been understood in various ways but Rev 21:3 clearly interprets it as representing God’s residence with humanity on earth. With the descent of New Jerusalem the barrier between earth and heaven is breached or removed and God directly lives among his people.

No Death (Rev 21:4; cf. Isa 25:8; 26:19); No Mourning or Crying (Rev 21:4; cf. Isa 25:8; 65:19; Jer 31:13); No Disease (Rev 21:4; 22:2; Isa 65:20; Ezek 47:12; Mal 4:2) The direct presence of God with humanity leads directly to these other realities: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes . . . .”

John’s vision of the future sharply contrasts with our present. We weep, and mourn, and hurt, and cry over senseless evil, cancer, heart attacks, violence, and death. We long for Christ to return to set everything right once and for all in his creation. We do not, however, wait in despair. We wait in confident hope and expectation that God will one day make good on his promises to his people!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Introducing the new Seminary Chaplain at Tyndale (drum-roll) . . .

The Fall semester officially began today! In addition to my New Testament and Greek classes I have inherited the position of seminary chaplain. The chaplain is responsible for planning and scheduling the two weekly chapel services throughout the year and for leading a half-hour faculty and staff devotion/prayer meeting each Monday. The chapel scheduling will require a good deal of networking with pastors and Christian leaders in the Netherlands.

In my first time leading the faculty/staff meeting today I shared some of the following thoughts: John concludes his vision of the eschatological New Jerusalem by summing up the future of God’s people: “and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:5c; ESV). This language of “reigning” is significant in light of God’s original creation purpose for humanity to reign and rule in his creation for his glory as his image bearers and representatives  (Gen 1:26-28). As a race we were/are rendered unable to fulfill this purpose by our rebellion, disobedience, and sin, but Rev 22:5 provides a glorious glimpse of our future—we will one day, as a redeemed race, fulfill God’s original creational purpose. We will reign with him as his image and representatives over a renewed and restored creation. Heaven/New Creation will certainly not be boring! Even better, “new creation” begins right now in the midst of this old creation for those who are in Christ (2 Cor 5 17). We engage in this activity of extending God’s reign and rule throughout his creation as we engage and participate in his mission to the world. I.e.: missions is a way for us to fulfill God’s original purpose for humanity while anticipating the future day when we will fulfill this purpose fully and completely in God’s new creation! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Summary :-)

Wow, this summer has flown by! I spent each weekday at the school teaching the eight week summer Greek class. Every new student starts their studies at Tyndale with summer Greek in order that all of their classes in the New Testament from that point forward can build upon this foundation. All of our evenings and weekends were spent getting things in order and adjusting to our new life and home here in the Netherlands. I want to briefly mention some of our summer highlights in terms of accomplishments and answered prayers.

--We received official government approval to homeschool for the 2013-2014 academic year! We need to re-apply each year but the approval we received this year with no hassles could almost be called a miracle. Many homeschooling families require professional legal aid to get through the red-tape and it is generally expected that there will be an initial refusal. We know that many of you have specifically been praying for us in this regard; thank you!

--We received five year residency cards and BSN (citizen service) numbers within our first month! The five-year residency card was an unexpected blessing since many missionaries and expats only receive one year residency cards and need to reapply each year (for a family of 6 like us that would be a 2,000 euro reapplication fee each year). Nobody we have spoken with knows why, but for whatever unknown reason we all received 5 year residency cards!

--Many of the other missionaries here were anticipating our arrival and set apart various second-hand items over this past year so that we were able to furnish our entire house (beds, mattresses, couches, dishes, tables, chairs, desks, book shelves, etc.) with very little out-of-pocket expenses.

--We have a great group of incoming students; they are hungry to learn, passionate in prayer, and excited about serving God with their lives! We will continue to highlight students in our newsletters and here on the blog as the semester progresses.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support that has made all this possible. We will be starting the Fall semester in one week and look forward to see what God has in plan. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I live in Holland?

  I was in the living room alone (Legos and nap time are a beautiful thing!) when I decided to practice saying "it".  My voice echoed off our bare walls.  I think I surprised myself when I said it because it sounded strange to say such a thing, it didn't and doesn't feel real, but feelings of reality or not it is quite true!  I said it out-loud just to hear how it sounded.  "Hi, I'm Jenny and I live in Holland."

To God be the glory that we can say it!  We are praising Him for His provision in getting us here and for providing the "things" we need: beds, appliances, Legos.  We are praising Him for giving us the joy and hope in each new day with all of the new things we face.  We are praising Him as He gives us comfort in all the things, places, people (and can I just add in food!?!) that we miss.

So, I'm told a picture is worth a thousand words.  This is a random summary of our past almost 2 months of "Hi, we are the Stewarts and we live in Holland!?!"

A Welcome party on our first day hosted by fellow missionaries at Tyndale.  The boys enjoyed meeting up with some of the friends they made last year!
We stayed in the dorms at Tyndale for the first about two weeks while all the paperwork and construction work was finished on our rental home.  The boys were looking at a card Meme sent Benjamin for his birthday!

During our first week Benjamin turned SIX years old!  All the students joined us for an ice cream celebration and a sweet new friend, Katy, surprised us with fun decorations!

Ready to blow out the candle! 
Our new home pre-floor, lights, and paint!  We had so much help from the students with getting all of those things completed!  We feel so very blessed and are truly thankful for their time and hard work.  Many of them arrived when we did and were travel weary and adjusting to a new culture along with us! 
Paul helping with the flooring...
The backyard...before.

Clean up round one...we now have planted some strawberries, raspberry bushes and Alex's long awaited Kiwi vine!  Elijah has planted a pumpkin patch and Mommy put in lettuce and broccoli.

Front yard...also round one we have some flowers now!
Picnic at the house before we moved in.

One of our first nights in our new home...this is 10:30 at night and yes, that's the sun you see not a reflection of the flash on the window!  Not easy to convince little people to go to bed with the sun still up!

Road construction!
More Road construction...


Continuing the Stewart tradition of reinforcing the chairs, you will have to ask Alex and his brother Joel about those stories!  We are so thankful for all of the furniture that was donated for our home!
Thankful for the Kauffman Family!  They are here to study at Tyndale and are also homeschooling!  Our kids have really enjoyed playing together.  They have built a fort, made bows and arrows, gone on some fun field trips and discovered some really great parks together!

Independence Day Celebration with fellow Americans in Holland! 
Roasting marshmallows on the 4th of July!
Getting Mommy's bike ready to go.  Micah will ride in the front, Paul in the back and the groceries go on the rack over the front wheel!  Mommy muscle is being taken to a whole new level!

Dr. Alex in his office!  God is so good to guide us to places, people and life experiences we never expected to bring us to this time and place!  We are thankful for your love, prayers and encouragement as we follow HIS leading in being part of the ministry at Tyndale!  To God be the glory!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Start of Summer Classes

We had safe and uneventful travel and a very busy first week in the Netherlands. Most of our time and energy has been focused on getting our house set up and livable, getting paperwork in order, and meeting the new students as they have arrived. God has blessed many of the transitional details and we are getting past most of the paperwork hurdles associated with an international move.

My first class starts tomorrow morning at 9:00! Please pray for all the new students as they are also transitioning to a new culture and new living arrangements as they begin studying Greek. The students taking summer classes at Tyndale come from Ghana, Belgium, Suriname, Ethiopia, Myanmar (Burma), Albania, Nigeria, Finland, Georgia, Rwanda, Germany, Netherlands, and China. We also have a few students from America who have come to study on the mission field in Tyndale’s rich multi-cultural environment. Please remember us in your prayers during this first week of classes as we also seek to move from the student dorms into our new house.   

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And They're Off!

At different times during this past year it felt like this day would never come but here it is: we are driving up to NY today and will be flying out of JFK to the Netherlands tomorrow! Unlike last summer where we only taught the summer classes and then returned to the States to continue to raise financial support, this time we are moving to stay and to continue teaching at Tyndale. We are very excited to finally be joining God’s global mission in this capacity and are convinced that by training international Christian leaders at Tyndale we can make a powerful impact on the world! We will share more details of the trip in a later post but for now I just want to share a verse that has become very important to me this past year.

Within a larger section addressing their financial support of his ministry Paul makes this comment to the Philippian Christians: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account” (Phil 4:17). Paul is clearly not teaching that their giving and support somehow earns salvation, but rather that their financial partnership in his ministry means they will share the credit for the fruit and effects of the ministry. Paul does not desire their money but the fruit that will result from the ministry that would be attributed to their sacrificial generosity.

This has been our heart through this past year of support raising. We are not looking for money but for Christians to join us in this ministry in a way that will make the ministry possible and impact the world for Christ. We can’t do it alone! As Christians we are called by God to join him in his mission to the nations through carrying his presence as his representative everywhere we go. By partnering with us in prayer and/or financial support you are extending your influence and impact to the world through us. We function as a global extension of your ministry and, as Paul makes clear, the fruit of the ministry will be directly attributed to your support! As we finally make the move overseas we are so thankful for the prayer and financial support of God’s people that have made and continue to make this ministry possible. Thank you!

Monday, June 17, 2013

See You Soon...

Well, it's time...the suitcases are packed.  My Mom, my sweet, wonderful, gracious Mom (you know the one) her house does not look like we are packed. But we are BECAUSE all suitcases are at 50 lbs and that's that...guess we'll make do without the permanent markers, bath robe and various oddities that were in the "take" pile and are now in the "take not" pile! 

All silliness aside, I have to be quite honest in saying that the whole "see you soon" thing AIN'T no fun. 

You can tell I mean that by the fact I used a word I do not appreciate: ain't. 

So a few of our recent "see you soons"...

We were able to go home to Henderson and see our Carey Church family.  They are having VBS this week and we miss being a part of that adventure.  It's always a joy to go and see the faces of friends, Sunday school teachers, pastor, secretary old and new and enjoy their company. 

Last night we said "see you soon" to the Steele Magnolias (it's a long story how we got the name, but we let me sum it up with who we are: four families, now 3 generations, who recognize the importance of loving, learning and leaning on the people God puts in your life!).  Not everyone was able to come but it's always a beautiful thing to be with people who you love and who love you through every stage of life.  Thankful, thankful, to come...once I find the camera cord.

This afternoon one of the dearest ladies in my life brought me cookies.  Mrs. Null has been my across the street neighbor since my family moved to Albemarle almost 25 years ago.  She has been like a grandmother to me in many ways and I have learned so much from her.  Her cookies, and everything else, are always perfection...I watched her walk back across the street, thankful but yet another "see you soon".
And then tonight...Aunt Jenny does not have favorites.  I love all nieces and nephews equally and I take the pictures to prove it!  However saying "see you soon" to my Ariana was so very hard.  We both ranked in the sincerely sad.  Please pray with me that God will use these times of "see you soon" to draw Ariana and all of our nieces and nephews, friends (old and young), brothers, sisters, parents, in-laws (I prefer "in-loves") and grandparents to Him and not allow satan to trick them into bitterness! 

 I heard this song on the radio just as I was about to sink into a state of discouragement (and that is so eloquently put it almost sounds like it would be slightly lovely, but believe me, it was not lovely!) and I'm going to share this song with you now...

Next time you hear from me I'll be across the pond...Lord willing!  See you soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

When Leaving becomes Going...

I'm not sure exactly when it happened. 

It could have been when I bought the airline tickets.

 It could have been when we went to have pictures taken for our residency cards. 

It could have been when I watched my boys tell their cousin, Riley, "see you soon" as they held hands and danced about in a circle being silly for a few moments longer all together. 

It could have been when Alex told me I could take whatever I can fit into 100 cubit feet of box and I crazily started sorting books, clothes and toys. 

It might have been when I realized the 18th marked one month until we drive to NY, the 19th made one month to fly out to Iceland, the 20th would be our arrival to the one month. 

Suddenly we are "leaving" has become we are "going"...

We are excited, we have worked hard, traveled much, packed little, prayed a lot, been blessed by God's people and their excitement to see His kingdom expand by sending our family to Holland to share His love!

We are sad and grieving the distance that will soon exist between parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, Church Family, and Chic-fil-a :0)

We have many new things ahead of without a car, lots of rain and walking, new language to acquire and the list could go on for a mighty long time!  And still  I cling to what has become my answer to it all:  Rejoice in Hope (and it's not just any hope it's the hope that God gives Romans 12). 

So, please hope alongside of us as we say "see you soon", as we get on the plane, as we walk into a new place and people!

A picture of what the front of our apartment will look like, though this is not it, they all look the same ;0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mother's Dayish Thoughts...

I really do think that Mother's Day is all that and a bag of chips (make mine jalapeno!) especially when 4 little men with the help of one big Daddy man try to make it so very special!  And they made it special not just for me but for Meme (my Mom) too!  Can we just say Jenny and Karen is "spoilt" by the Stewart boys?!  If it sounds like I'm bragging it's because I am; in a very thankful for what I've been given kind of way!

We were spoiled with good picture taking.

We were spoiled with going to McAlister's Deli for lunch (one of our favorite places, and not just because we love the name).

We were spoiled with our all time favorite: a trip to Target and then to 
Old Navy all just for the fun of it!

It was a wonderful day complete with seeing our van, Bessie, hit a fun milestone of 202020 on her odometer (I mean really, how often does that happen?)

So, this random post if from me to you to say I am thankful for my lovely Mother's Day and I just wanted you to know it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Your Love Never Fails...

So, there's this song.  The kind of song you hear and realize that if you were clever enough you would have written it because it's what your heart, soul, mind is aching to sing.  You want to know what that song is for me these days?  Okay here it is...

Just in case you don't want to listen to the whole 5 minutes here are the words...

"One Thing Remains" by Jesus Culture

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing... Remains (repeat)

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains

Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me (3x)

In death, In life, I'm confident and
covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there's nothing that can
separate my heart from Your great love

This time last year I felt like I was facing a mountain as we had just finished packing our van and the U-haul said good bye one more time to friends we loved and the house we called "home" for 4 years.  Of course, while it felt life threatening at the time, it wasn't and while the constant trial of change has followed us (but let's be real when doesn't it?) "one thing remains"!  God's love has not failed us, given up or run out and it's by His grace we have survived this far and are able to face the next mountain.

THE U-haul...


"Bessie" the van with bikes on top!

There is still a lot of change ahead for our family.  We start packing, start facing all the "see you soons" we need to say before we go for awhile, start planning for the ministry God has called us to be a part of at Tyndale.  I'm a mix of emotions but I know one thing remains!  His love NEVER fails, gives up or runs out!

Taken just a day or two before we moved.  We kept our tradition of sitting in the yard and reading books until Daddy got home from work!  We also waved at the school buses that went by (waiting for Mrs. Pat's bus even when she wasn't driving one anymore), talking to the neighbors (Jordan family and Anna we miss you!) and hoping the mailman was going to bring a package!