Thursday, January 31, 2008

What I've Learned

The big issue with spiritual gifts, like with baptism, is determining their purposes. If the purpose of baptism is to indicate personal faith, then infant baptism is irrelevant and a misapplication of the sacrament.

If the purpose of "sign" gifts was simply to establish the church, not to continue building it up, then contemporary speaking in tongues is irrelevant at best, and misleading at worst.

However, I still struggle with this issue. My church has taken a clear stand on this issue, but it appears to me that Paul specifically forbids forbidding tongues (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:39-40).

As long as I keep in mind that this policy is in place to encourage non-Christians to attend services and learn more about Jesus, and to avoid Paul's concern in verses 22-25.

What these verses say to me is that the purpose of speaking in tongues is outreach to people who speak different languages. The way I've experienced tongues in charismatic services is very disorderly, the way Paul criticizes in these verses.

As so often happens in life, it appears that both extremes miss the point as a result of fear. Charismatic congregations ignore Paul's guidelines to keep things orderly, and conservative congregations adopt a cessationist perspective which denies the reality of tongues in today's world.

In my mind, the gift of tongues is a miraculous outreach gift that can expand God's kingdom today, but that is used unbiblically in many worship services.

Like many other things I belive on faith, not sight, I believe in the contemporary biblical application of tongues, and am not a cessationist. However, I can balance this perspective with the church's teaching and my tactful facilitation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spiritual Gifts v. Personality Type

I appreciate the approach that my church adopts.

There is a balance between biblical truth and secular discoveries. It makes sense that if performance objectives work in business, then they should be applied responsibly to the operation of a church organization. If personality typing can improve relationships among colleagues at work, that this thinking should also apply to ministries at church.

This is particularly significant since Gary Smalley, a well-known Christian relationship expert, is a world leader in the interaction among people of different personality types.

Lord, I pray that I will be able to teach these concepts with wisdom and insight, and in a way that helps our church members and church ministries grow in capacity.

What are my performance objectives for facilitating NH301? I think I can follow the structure of national health objectives for breastfeeding: an initial percentage of "new recruits" and a lower but significant number of people firmly established in new ministries. How can we track this data through existing systems in the church office?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Paul writes, in Romans 1:11-12, that he wants to see the members of the Roman church in person.

A principle which I see in these verses is that there is great value in meeting people in person. There is a level of emotional connection which cannot be replicated online or via email, texting and IM. It appears that there is a similar limitation spiritually.

What this says to me is that I need to apply the concept of Management by Walking Around not only to my teaching, but also to my spiritual objectives as well.

As an aside, it is surprising to see Peter Drucker, the management guru, credited with coining SMART objectives in 1954. Hmm...a couple of posters claimed to review the primary source, The Practice of Management, and can't find SMART goals anywhere in his writings.

Monday, January 28, 2008

1 Corinthians 14:1

In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul encourages the members of the church in Corinth to desire the gift of prophecy. He goes on, later in the chapter, to compare prophecy to speaking in tongues.

One verse that stands out is 39. I think I should explore this with my cofacilitators. In our materials, our church specifically forbids speaking in tongues. I wonder why we make this restriction, since Paul specifically forbids forbidding tongues?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

A foundational explanation of spiritual gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 12.

The is the chapter in which Paul describes the Church as a body. His key point is that every Christian brings unique skills to the table, and only by working together can we accomplish the Lord's work effectively.

In 1 Peter 4:8,10 we are reminded to use our gifts in love.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Spiritual Gifts

I was just approved to help teach a course at church which deals with the relationship among spiritual gifts, natural talents, and service in the body of Christ.

Therefore, I will explore different views of spiritual gifts in preparation for this great opportunity.

Dr. John Ruthven, a professor at Regent University, has concluded that cessationism, as outlined in Benjamin B. Warfield's 1918 book, Counterfeit Miracles, is seriously flawed. His online summary of a more substantial doctoral thesis, is available here: On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles.

Brilliant, Christian minds, clearly believe in a full range of possibilities, from full cessationists to full continuationists.

See the following blog related to this debate: Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where Does Love Come From?

In 1 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul writes, "May the Lord make your love for each other and for everyone else grow by leaps and bounds. That's how our love for you has grown."

When I think about loving other people, I always imagine that it's a feeling and an action that I generate within myself. Paul teaches us that since God is love (cf. 1 John 4), love grows as God allows it to grow.

Therefore, when I feel the need for more love, I should first pray to God to allow my love to grow.

Again, I see that the best first step toward growth is prayer.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Timothy and Paul

It is interesting to note the dynamic between Timothy and Paul in 1 Thessalonians 3:5-6. I wonder what lessons there are for us today?

1. The leader doesn't have to do it all
2. Find people you can trust with the most important missions
3. Trust your partners
4. Don't partner with people you can't trust! How different, unimaginably, history would be if Jesus had chosen 12 trustworthy disciples, and not just 11!
5. When you are betrayed, accept that God's big picture is still intact.
6. Like Timothy served Paul, so I serve Christ

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Prediction of Suffering

In 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4, Paul reminds the church in Thessalonica that his present suffering should be no surprise.

Christians often predict great suffering.

What is the difference between a healthy, spiritual view of suffering and an unhealthy anticipation?

Jesus models an appropriate anticipation of suffering in Luke 22:39-46. He balances his natural desire to avoid suffering with a clear submission to God's will.

In Acts 5, we get a different perspective on suffering. In verses 40-42, we learn that Peter and some others "rejoiced" that they had the privilege of suffering for the name of Jesus.

It is better to suffer unjustly for doing God's work than it is to suffer justly at the hands of the law and people.

The key is to focus on God's work and purposes. Jesus and the apostles didn't go looking for a fight. Their suffering was at the hands of people who didn't like their message of truth.

When I suffer, it's usually a result of my selfishness and sin. I won't pray to avoid all suffering, but I will pray today that when I do experience suffering, it becomes more and more a reflection of my faith.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Timothy's Visit and Purpose

Paul explains to the Thessalonians that, "We wanted him [Timothy] to make you strong in your faith and to encourage you."

We cannot grow spiritually in isolation.

Paul had a direct experience with Jesus.

We learn, in 1 Timothy 1:18-19, that Timothy received prophesies about his future service. I wonder what exactly this means.

The only prophetic word I remember receiving is from Chris D. at a former church, who said each time I spoke that she saw me serving as a pastor someday.

It's nice having that sort of encouragement, but I wonder where to go with this information. I love teaching, and I've accumulated too much debt to become a pastor! Maybe this is an opportunity to explore after I've retired from public service. Hmmm...

I have received spiritual encouragement from dozens of people. I am surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses." Hebrews 11:1-12:1 gives me great encouragement. I can add many names to the list in Hebrews 11 from my personal experience.

As I pray today, I will include thanks to God for the people he has placed in my life who have helped me to grow spiritually.

Monday, January 21, 2008


At first blush, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 doesn't seem like a big deal. Paul chose to stay behind in Athens while Timothy returned to Thessalonica.

Upon further reflection, this is a really big deal.

Paul's life is in danger. He's under significant persecution, suffering for the gospel. Despite this incredible pressure, he decides to go it alone for a while, so that Timothy can check up on the Thessalonian church.

If there had been cell phones and the internet, this sacrifice wouldn't have been necessary. Paul could have picked up the phone and dialed and gotten an update.

Has technology made self-sacrifice less common?

I'm tempted to say yes and be done with this question. But that can't possibly be the whole story.

We are much more "connected" today than when I was born in 1974. As recently as the mid-90s, my parents lost touch with me for a few weeks while I was on the Summer's Best Two Weeks travel team. I communicated via mail, not email!

Information flow feels infinite. There is much more leisure material available on demand.

Jesus taught in Matthew 19:23-26 that wealth is a barrier to trusting in God.

Technology is just one element of the great wealth I experience everyday.

When Jesus tells his disciples, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible," I take this as a warning against relying upon my great wealth for fulfillment.

Just as I observed my kids fighting more after getting new toys this past Christmas than beforehand, I tend to get cranky when I feel I've missed an opportunity to post to this blog.

The more you have, the more you covet.

Jesus, please save me from my natural tendency toward greed and selfishness.

The solution is giving away more and more. This applies not only to money, but to time and energy and gifts and talents.

Jesus, as I give away more and more of myself, please fill me up with more and more. I want to enter more of what Pastor Vince calls "The God Zone," a sweet spot of giving and receiving!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good Intentions

Many commentators group 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5 together as one thought.

Paul really wanted to visit the Thessalonians, but Satan prevented him from doing so.

Have I ever had an experience like this, where I wanted to do something but Satan prevented me from accomplishing my goal?

Temporarily, yes, but permanently, no.

Paul was also temporarily prevented from returning to Thessalonica.

The lesson I learn from this passage is to stay persistent in prayer when it appears that Satan will prevent me from doing a good work. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18:1-8 which teaches this same concept.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

1 Thessalonians 3 Outline

I. Paul sends Timothy to Thessaloniki
II. Timothy brings back a good report
III. Paul is encouraged, even as he suffering

Key verse 3:8 "Your strong faith in the Lord is like a breath of new life."

It is my desire that my faith can help someone else feel like they've experienced a breath of new life.

What concrete step can I take to accomplish this goal? When I face a difficult situation, respond with prayer and not anger.

Friday, January 18, 2008

1 Thessalonians 2:13

Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, "We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn't something made up by humans. You accepted it as God's message, and now he is working in you."

This quote relates closely to Romans 1:18-22, where Paul describes God's fingerprint of existence through an objective view of the natural world.

My pastor, last night, held up a watch and showed it to the audience. He said, "When you look at this watch, does it make sense to claim that I threw the materials to make it over in a corner and it came together like this?"

Christians need to stop being so apologetic about referring to the concept of "Intelligent Design." However, we need to examine the most common atheistic arguments against God more carefully. I read recently on that David Hume laid out the most compelling arguments against the need for a creator.

I will read about David Hume in my philosophy textbook from Dr. Basinger's classes, so that I can review Hume's antireligious arguments. As a person who witnesses via reason and debate, I need to refamiliarize myself with the philosophical foundations of atheism.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Angry at the Jewish People

Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, a scathing indictment against the Jews.

Some commentators are so uncomfortable with his comments here that they try to distance themselves from Paul's venom. It is easy to lump Paul in with a long list or anti-Semites throughtout the last 4000 years of human history.

The trouble with this perspective is that Paul is a Jew. This is not a case of calling for ethnic cleansing; rather, he is expressing the same kind of frustration that God himself expresses over and over again in the Old Testament against his chosen people.

It would be interesting to find out how a contemporary Orthodox Jew would read the Torah, and if he or she would agree on any level with Paul's assessment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Responding to Trouble

What is more important, honoring human differences or getting people on the "right team?"

At first glance, these two objectives appear to be contradictory.

How can a devout Christian be "tolerant" and simultaneously accept the Bible's teaching that people who don't believe in Christ are destined to spend eternity in hell?

Paul makes some interesting remarks related to this difficulty.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul writes that, "God gave us the courage to tell you the good news about him, even though many people caused us trouble."

What this says to me is that the courage necessary to share this orthodox but controversial belief comes from God, not from my own strength.

Therefore, a regular part of my prayer life should include asking God for courage to share about the truth of Jesus' sacrifice with people who do not believe.

But I struggle with the fear that I will drive people away from faith by pushing them too hard. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 that, "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?"

I do not feel adequate for this task.

But in a sense, I don't feel adequate preparing my students for the state math exam, either! There is always something I could do more efficiently, with more success. But that doesn't mean that I stop creating lesson plans and teaching. It's my job!

Some of my students enter my class with that feeling of enjoying a sweet aroma, while other kids smell death when they're faced with a math problem!

In the same way that I have a gift for helping kids feel successful in math class, I should pray that God will teach me to transfer this talent to my witness for Christ.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

1 Thessalonians 1 v. 2

Paul seems to repeat himself a bit between chapters 1 and 2.

Why does he bring up the same issues two times?

Maybe because repetition a theme is a good instructional technique? Parallelism makes a more lasting impression.

Monday, January 14, 2008

1 Thessalonians 2:4

What's my motive? Paul writes in verse 4 that, "God was pleased to trust us with his message. We didn't speak to please people, but to please God who knows our motives."

Who do I seek to please?

Yesterday in church, my pastor quoted the following statistic: people will increase their output at work by 35% when a supervisor is watching them. This is definitely true of my students. Is it true of me?

One way I'd like to grow professionally is to increase by work rate to the level I'd achieve if a supervisor were there watching me.

Ultimately, God is always holding me accountable, anyway. I need to remind myself of this reality.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Paul's Second Missionary Journey

Paul refers to his mistreatment in Philippi in verse 2. Therefore, Paul and his companions arrived in Thessaloniki immediately after their beating and imprisonment. This makes their bold witness even more compelling and difficult to criticize.

We may connect 1 Thessalonians to his Second Missionary Journey.

We learn about what happened in Philippi in Acts 16:9-40.

Paul wrote 1 letter on his first missionary journey, Galatians. He wrote 2 letters on his second missionary journey, 1 & 2 Thessalonians. And he wrote 3 letters on his third journey, 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

1 Thessalonians 2 Outline

I. Bad time in Philippi
II. Productive visit to Thessaloniki
A. Paul, Silas and Timothy preached with pure motives
B. They didn't peddle the message for $$$
III. Thessalonian church persecuted by the Jews
IV. Paul tried to return, but couldn't

Friday, January 11, 2008

Daniel's Prayers

It is fascinating spending an entire week reflecting upon a single chapter in the Bible.

What stands out to me most is that I have to continue working on my commitment to pray regularly.

In Daniel 6, we learn about how Daniel's peers used his powerful, regular prayer life against him. But we learn, in verse 23, that "...when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God."

I would like to grow into a person like Daniel, someone who trusts God so much that there is no other alternative except to pray regularly!

I can't generate trust within myself, but praying is an act of the will that I can control. I will continue to pray more and more regularly.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Henry Ford Quote

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do."

1 Thessalonians 1:7-8

In 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Paul describes the following step-by-step process:

1. The Thessalonian church became a public example
2. People all over Greece heard about their witness
3. Their reputation has spread "all over the world"

Clearly, Paul is complimenting the church in Thessaloniki for living out the Christian life in a way that other people noticed.

I have many initial thoughts and reactions to this idea:

* Didn't Jesus warn us against taking other people's opinions too seriously?
* With the internet and mass media, how are reputations created throughout the world today?
Response: I believe that reputations are still created based upon character, not glitz and psychology. Popularity is a very different measure than reputation. For instance, Billy Graham is not popular among atheists, but his reputation is stellar.
Thought: What is my reputation?
The flaw with this question is that reputation is based upon other people's opinions. So how do I focus upon God's evaluation of my character, and not other people's? It's impossible not to take other people seriously. And doesn't God put people in our lives who can help us grow?

When I work with summer school students, I often find that many of them have chosen poor models to follow. A key is not focusing inwardly. That's God's job to evaluate me. Instead, what is useful is continuing to seek other people who model the Christian life.

In Acts 24, Paul makes a public defense of his faith. In verse 16, he says, "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." This is a great way to develop a positive reputation.

Interestingly, the last thing Paul says in this speech is, "It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today."

This is the same theme he uses to end each chapter of 1 Thessalonians. I wonder if this is the truth most easily-rejected, the stumbling block, that prevents people today from becoming Christians?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

1 Samuel 12:23--Fifty Applications

1 Samuel 12:23 leads me to the following applications:
1. It is possible to sin by not praying for some individual or group
2. Leaders are expected to pray for their followers
3. It is a leader's responsibility to pray for his or her followers, even when the followers have messed up
4. Interesting, this verse says, "...far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you." That's not what I expected.
5. The sin of omission, not praying for the people, would have been against the Lord, not against the people of Israel.
6. In a sense, every sin is against the Lord and not other people.
7. The fact that sins are against the Lord, not people, does not give us license to treat others poorly. In fact, it raises the bar to an even higher standard!
8. When I sin, do I direct my energy toward repentance or toward guilt? Usually toward guilt. This is the wrong attitude.
9. When David sinned, he acknowledged that his sin was against the Lord (2 Samuel 12:13).
10. When King Saul sinned, he eventually acknowledged (in 1 Samuel 15:24) that he'd sinned. He doesn't specifically acknowledge that his sin is "against the Lord."
11. In this same verse, he explains that he was "afraid of the army." When am I "afraid of the army" and use this as an excuse to sin?
12. This seems to teach that my fear of the Lord needs to be greater than my fear of the army. In other words, I need to focus on heaven for motivation and guidance, not earth.
13. Jesus sets "True North," not humanity.
14. I follow the crowd rather than the Lord most of the time. This is a sin against the Lord!
15. The phrase "sin against the Lord" is redundant. Every sin is against the Lord!
16. #15 became even more clear after Jesus' death on the cross.
17. Searching for the phrase "I have sinned against the Lord" at yields these three results
18. Even Pharoah knew his sin was against the Lord and not against Moses and the Hebrews
19. Even Achan, in Joshua 7, stated clearly than his sin was against the Lord and not against society or his peers or the army of the Lord
20. Today, public apology and repentance seems to be the key to receiving public forgiveness. In Achan's case, despite his admitting to his sin, he was still stoned to death. Why? Where is the forgiveness?
21. How will I live differently, now that I understand that every sin is a sin against the Lord? Will I sin less? Probably not. Will I repent instead of carrying guilt? That seems like the healthy response!
22. The next time I become aware of a sin in my life, I will immediately acknowledge that the sin is against you, Lord. I will repent and accept Jesus' sacrifice in my place. I will thank you in my prayer of repentance for your grace.
23. Please teach me, Lord, how to communicate this truth clearly to people who don't yet know you. Is this even possible, or does a person have to be a Christian to understand this concept?

I didn't quite make it to 50 applications, but this have been a very useful process!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

More Thoughts on Prayer

I highly recommend the NIV Study Bible. It is my favorite general resource when I dig a bit deeper into the scriptures.

The concept of intercessory prayer, praying for others, intrigues me. Verse 2 illustrates that Paul and his companions prayed for the Thessalonians.

I cross-referenced this passage in my NIV Study Bible to 1 Samuel 12:23.

Tomorrow, I'd like to use a technique modelled by Young Life leaders. They will start with a single verse and draw out 50 applications.

I won't have time to discover and type out all 50 applications at once, but I'll think about this verse today to get a head start.


Yesterday afternoon, I realized I'd already broken my vow to pray briefly at the beginning of each class at school and right before returning home.

Not only that, but I made it home after 4:30, and I'd clearly committed to be home before then.

Despite this, my classes went very well and the kids and Amy had had a great day.

Clearly this doesn't mean that prayer isn't important, but it does mean that prayer is not some kind of talisman.

The Bible teaches that it's better not to make a vow than to make it and break it, so I will confess and try to remember to pray continually today.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The End of Time: Part 2 of 2

Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 how positively the reputation the church in Thessaloniki has developed. In particular, in verse 10, he refers to their expectant attitude towards Christ's return.

It is interesting to note that the final verse of all five chapters in this book refer to the end of time.

I wanted to learn more about people's thinking related to end times, so I used the Holman Bible Dictionary [April 1991 edition] to explore the term "Day of the Lord." There are a wide variety of interpretations of this concept.

Then I followed up with a reading of the term "dispensation." James L. Blevens writes the following:

The word "dispensation" became prominent in biblical studies in a recent eschatological [end times] movement which dates back to 1830 in Scotland. This movement called "dispensationalism" can be traced back to the visions of Margaret McDonald, a member of the Plymouth Brethren Church. She believed that the return of Christ would be in two distinct stages. The believer would be caught up to the Lord in the air before the days of the antichrist. Then there would be a final revelation of Christ at the end of the age....Hal Lindsey has made the system a best seller in The Late Great Planet Earth. The Book of Revelation has become a key book in the dispensational approach. Dispensationalists see the rapture taking place in Revelation 4:1 and the rest of the book (chs. 4-18) dealing with the seven years of tribulation. Thus the book has very little significance for Christians who will not be on earth during that time.

This last sentence implies strongly that Mr. Blevens is not a dispensationalist, particularly with respect to end times. His earlier description of the genesis of dispensational thought, as well as other comments in the article on dispensation, imply the same reservations.

I am sceptical, too. It makes me just as suspicious seeing the popularity of dispensational studies of Revelation as it does seeing the vast cannon available for children related to dinosaurs.

Paul uses hyperbole in his writings, so I'll use a bit here: Anything that popular can't possibly be true!

The Left Behind series is a contemporary fictionalization of the dispensational view of the end of time. But again, its huge popularity makes me question its truth value.

I believe that humans prefer to immerse themselves in fiction masquerading as nonfiction much more that engaging with truth and reality. I include myself in this number. Notice that I'm spent much more time and energy on this post than on, say, learning more about the geography of Greece in the first century AD!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The End of Time: Part 1 of 2

One concept Christians haven't emphasized nearly enough in the past several decades is the importance of the discovery of evidence which supports a big bang.

Before this evidence was available, it was possible to argue that the cosmos had eternal existence. An eternal universe needs no creator.

Now we have an estimated maximum age of the universe.

Christians have been too busy arguing for a young earth and a literal seven days of creation with people who find the scientific theory more compelling. The key is not attaching the correct number to the age of the universe. The key is that there is a moment of creation. This is a qualitative distinction and much more philosophically important than today's ID / evolution debate.

Scientists have put forth materialistic theories about big crunches and the like, but this is no better-supported by the evidence than the biblical record.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Paul in particular, and the Bible in general, teaches the value of following godly models.

For instance, in 1 Thessalonias 1:5-6, Paul refers to the positive example that he and Silas and Timothy lived out. Not only that, but he implies that imitating the three of them is equivalent to imitating Christ.

This leaves me with two significant questions. First, whom do I seek to imitate? I find it easier to answer this question vocationally, more difficult spiritually. One task I will complete today is meditating upon who to imitate spiritually.

Second, am I worth imitating? The Christian classic, Imitation of Christ, deals significantly with this issue. Much of the time, in many areas of my life, I do not feel that I am worth imitating. In fact, the thing I model best is probably my frequent and passionate reading of scripture. That is a big encouragement! I do have a valuable habit worth imitating!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Reactions to Prayer Link

Here's the link to the article on prayer: Dennis L. Okholm's Prayer

The first thing that stood out to me is that prayer is primarily an exercise in making requests to God and asking God to influence events. I guess that's obvious, but it feels a bit arrogant asking God for anything!

But the image that Jesus introduces of God as our Abba, our "Daddy," makes this a bit easier to take.
Jack and Sarah can come to me with requests, because they know that I can do lots of things that they can't even imagine accomplishing on their own.

Obviously, the distance between kids and parents is simply quantitative, whereas the difference between God and people is qualitatively significant. But the Bible does teach that we're created "in the image of God." That means that we can have a significant, personal prayer relationship with the creator of the universe. That's almost too amazing to comprehend!

A second emphasis is the spontaneity of prayer in the Bible. I am working to improve my prayer life specifically by becoming more spontaneous, more open to prayer in the moment, and not just as part of a liturgical routine. My last two days have felt covered in prayer. Not all of my problems have disappeared, but it is clear that God is helping me in my specific circumstances. Because I am praying more often, it is more clear to me how much God does for me each day.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


When I have more time, I'm interested in reading Dennis L. Okholm's discussion of prayer.
For many years, using the "A-C-T-S" model of prayer, Adoration / Confession / Thanksgiving / Supplication, has been extremely helpful in helping me become more comfortable speaking with God. But one consequence of this habit has been that I've focused on a single, extended prayer time each morning. Days that I run late, I don't get around to praying until the end of the day.
What I'm trying to do now is learn more and more about praying continually (from chapter 5).
I will apply this lesson by saying a brief, silent prayer at the beginning of each lesson at school, and again right before getting home at the end of the work day. I will do this for at least the next 7 days.

1 Thessalonians 1:7 Geography

Link to Achaia
Link to Map of NT Greece
It's interesting to note that the phrase "Achaia and Macedonia" can simply mean all of Greece.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Science & Faith, or the Lack of Deduction

OK. Actually, it is the message that came in power.
So what? I think the important thing is that when sharing the good news, I need to rely upon the Holy Spirit to prove the message. The idea is that in a mathematical, logical sense, I have no proof that God exists or that the Bible is true.
But there is a great deal of evidence that supports my faith.
It's the difference between a deductive proof and a proof by induction.
My faith is proved by induction, by overwhelming evidence and by the affect that my relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit has upon my life.
In this sense, science and faith are very closely related. No scientist claims that experimentation and observation "prove" a particular conclusion, but simply that, for example, evolution best explains the evidence at hand given our current data.
No Christian can with 100% certainty prove the Resurrection. But that doesn't mean that I believe in the Resurrection any less than a scientist believes in evolution.
Here's a true example from my own thinking: I think that the whole dinosaur culture is overblown. Prove that dinosaurs ever existed!
A paleontologist would probably be exasperated with this demand.
In the same way, I'm exasperated when someone asks me to prove the Bible is true.
So stop trying to prove the Bible's truth with logic, and refer instead to the evidence!

Initial Questions

Where are Macedonia and Achaia? Are (were) they states in Greece, like New York is a state in the US?
What does it mean that the Holy Spirit came to them in power? In the past, I've applied this verb to the new believers, but it appears that this describes the message coming from Paul and the others.
OK. Actually, it is the message that came in power.
So what?

1 Thessalonians 1 Outline

I. Paul's Personal Greeting
A. Silas
B. Timothy
II. Church sealed with the Holy Spirit
A. Thessalonian believers turned from idols
B. Lived with and followed model of Paul and other Christians
C. Now well-known for strong faith
1. Macedonia
2. Achaia
III. Reminder of Jesus' Return

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Thessalonians and the New England Patriots

The Pats just finished a perfect regular season a few days ago.
I was shocked to learn that Tom Brady was a backup quarterback on his 0-8 high school team. The announcers weren't sure about the exact details, but the theme is clear: one of the most successful NFL quarterbacks of all time started his career as a 6th-round afterthought.
The church in Thessaloniki had humble and difficult beginnings as well.
I'm encouraged by the thought that God allows people and organizations with humble beginnings to finish strong.
I'd like to finish strong, Lord. Please allow me to do this, not for the glory, but for the opportunity to serve You more effectively.
Help me with my selfish motivations.

Silas, Unsung Hero

I'd forgotten that Silas was the disciple who was imprisoned with Paul and chose not to escape after the supernatural earthquake.
Silas also scribed Peter's letters and went with him on some missions trips.
Anyone who was right-hand-man to both Paul and Peter must be a superstar of the faith. Why doesn't he get more press?