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Today I got the opportunity to hang out with a second grader from a single parent home for an hour or so after school. As I was preparing and then while I was hanging out with him I was thinking about what I need to have “ready to go” for the next time I get this opportunity! For today I took ball and gloves, football, frisbee and the action bible! We went for shakes and fries and read through his favorite story, David and Goliath, before heading to the park. I was a pretty great hour. In that time he did most of the talking and sharing about his life, as it should be, and I got to just be there and listen. He loved the whole hour and jumped in my car when mom came to pick him up saying he was gonna spend the night. That thought was quickly dispelled for any of you other CM friends out there, but nonetheless he and I both can’t wait for next month when we get to do this again!

What did I learn today? Well, I learned that it’s good to have a plan and some structure in mind. I was able to guide our time without telling him what we were going to be doing. Secondly, I learned that a variety of options need to be prepared. I was fortunate that he enjoyed sports and tag at the park, but not every kid would have been stoked on that. Finally, I learned that communication is key. I need to be able to offer a safe environment for a kid to just talk. We didn’t go deep today but some serious trust groundwork was laid because I was able to listen and encourage him. So that is it for now. What are your thoughts on spending time with kids who need positive role models and what would you do if you got the chance?

Prompt 1: List the names of Jewish leaders who were important to the Intertestamental Period of Jewish history; also give their distinctive contributions to Jewish history.  How did these individuals use their contributions to prepare for the coming of the Messiah and the founding of the church?  Which contributions continue to have an impact on the church today?  What modern or recent movements are similar to these?

 

Life for the Jews was unsettled at best throughout the Persian, Grecian and Ptolemaic Periods (539-198).  It was during this time that the Septuagint was commissioned and groundwork was laid for a Jewish revolt against the Hellenistic movement.

The Syrian period (198-167) was dominated by a divided nation of Jews.

  • The Oniad family under High Priest Onias III supported the Ptolemies of Egypt.
  • The house of Tobias supported Syria and struggled for control against the Oniads.
  • In a traitorous move, Jason, the brother of Onias III instituted Hellenistic customs so Antiochus IV would appoint him high priest.
  • The high priesthood was then sold to an even greater “ally” of Antiochus, Menelaus, creating a precedent for ascension that could only defeat the values of Judaism.

In a declaration of outrage against Syria and the so-called Jewish leaders a revolt began in an effort to take back control from Syria.

  • Matthias, an elderly priest, rallied a band of Jews together and effectively ended Syria’s rule over Palestine through military action.
  • Upon Matthias’ death his son, Judas Maccabaeus, assumed military leadership and dominated the battlefield gaining religious freedom from Syrian control.  This ushered in the Maccabean period of rule and his victory is still celebrated each year at Hanukkah.
  • After Judas was killed his brother Jonathan took the reigns and decided to accept the position of high priest despite it not being rightfully his.
  • Upon Jonathan’s capture and execution his brother Simon led the people militarily and politically, gaining victory and national autonomy from taxation to the Syrian’s.

Following Simon, leadership remained in the Hasmonean/Maccabean family, but “the term Hasmonean” is often used to show that they had “different agendas from their forefathers” the Maccabees (Lea 2003, 19).

  • Hyrcanus, Simon’s son, became the military leader and ruled virtually as a Jewish King.  During his leadership three leadership groups were established that served as precursors to the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.
  • The final Jewish Intertestamental leader was Hyrcanus II who named himself King.  In his time he allowed Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, to rise in power and allowed a Jewish civil war to escalate to the point where Rome was able to come in and assume control, ushering in the New Testament.

The Intertestamental period was marked by violence and war, creating a legacy that continues to this day throughout the world of waging “holy war”.  It can also be argued that church leadership today face similar issues to those of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes as ministry becomes compartmentalized and isolated by departments within churches.  Finally, it would be wise for Christians today to take a lesson from history and strengthen our convictions as the government takes strides to restrict our religious freedoms.

 

 

Prompt 3: List and define some of the major sources used to reconstruct the history of the Intertestamental Period.  Which of these sources do you consider the most important, and why?  Why is the study of these sources important to a proper understanding of the New Testament?  How do these sources help us understand NT thought and topics? 

 

What actually took place between the Old and New Testament?  Without the gift of special revelation, the biblical scholar must look to other reliable sources to answer this question.  While there are many sources to study a few rise to the top.

 

  • The Old and New Testament must be viewed highly in the Intertestamental Period study.  They provide the bookends for how the Jewish people were living during that time.
  • The Septuagint is another critical source as it provides a window into the theology of the Jews during that time as they transcribed the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek.
  • Another source that cannot be overlooked are the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Discovered in 1947, “new perspectives” were gained as to how “to interpret previously available information” (Scott 1995, 20).
  • The writings of Flavius Josephus are also valuable in studying the Intertestamental Period.  Josephus was a quick study who rapidly rose to the top of Jewish faith and fought the Romans until his capture and betrayal of loyalties as he aided the Roman conquest.  His writings are invaluable in the understanding of the Jewish struggle against the Romans, which is critical to understanding the New Testament setting.
  • Another Intertestamental writer, Philo Judaeus, was classically trained in Greek studies but “remained a deeply committed Jew” (Scott 1995, 39).  He is best known for his allegorical approach to studying scripture and is the “highest form of Hellenistic Judaism and of an intellectual Diaspora Jew” from the time (Scott 1995, 39).

 

It is the opinion of this student that the writings of Josephus and Judaeus are primary to a study of the Intertestamental period because they provide a look into the life and experiences of the Jewish people.  Through a developed understanding of their lives and the surrounding history, we develop a clearer understanding of the historical records.

The value of studying these texts lies in the study of the New Testament itself.  Christ and the Apostles are living and ministering in a world shaped specifically by the history found in the Intertestamental Period.  Without an understanding of this it is possible to miss statements made as a reaction to the state of the Jewish faith or miss the significance when the Apostles teach against Hellenism on their missionary journeys.

 

Bibliography

Lea, Thomas D, and Black, David Alan. 2003. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.

Scott, J. Julius Jr. 1995. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, 

Systematic Theology is “the attempt to reduce religious truth to a coherent and relevant whole for the church” (Demarest 2001, 1162).  Traditionally known as the “queen of sciences” (Demarest 2001, 1163), systematic theology pulls from special and general revelation, development of doctrine throughout history, studies in grammar and culture, as well as the findings of other theological disciplines to make up the totality of religious truth.  It is then the task of the theologian, guided by the Spirit, to present a synthesized and contextualized understanding of whom God is and how He has historically interacted with man (Demarest 2001, 1162-1163).  While systematic theology is an essential tool for the church it is not the only method used to study God.

Another method is biblical theology, which focuses on theology found within the Old and New Testaments.  Biblical Theology presents all the truth about God found in scripture or focuses in on theology that remains timeless for all generations.  The differences between biblical theology and systematic theology are primarily found in how the theologian presents his study.  While the systematic theologian will contextualize material, the biblical theologian will focus on what the text says and serve as the “raw material”, providing the foundation for the systematic approach (Erickson 1998, 26).

Historical theology also serves the church in its understanding of God through the goal of “tracing the church’s faith topically through the various eras of…history” (Demarest 2001, 1164).  By studying the ebb and flow of a particular doctrine throughout church history or a specific theologian of the past, historical theology serves the systematic theologian in three ways according to Erickson.   Primarily it serves to create self-awareness in the systematic theologian against his own presuppositions.  Historical theology also serves by providing an example of how to do systematic theology, while finally providing a laboratory of sorts to evaluate ideas (1998, 27-28).

The final form of theology to compare with the systematic approach is philosophical theology, which serves the church by examining the very truth about God that is foundational to its existence.  The philosophical theologian aims to “supply content for theology, defend theology or establish its truth, and scrutinize its concepts and arguments” (Erickson 1998, 29).  While the systematic theologian can value the third tenant of the philosophical approach, he must side with Karl Barth and reject the first two based on an understanding and conviction in the sufficiency of scripture.

By examining these four approaches to the study of theology I am convinced that an adherence to the systematic method is the most useful approach to me.  I have an analytic mind and thusly appreciate the logical organization presented by a systematic theology.  Because of the value placed on utilizing biblical, historical and philosophical theology and the driving desire to synthesize scripture with a “central interpretive motif” (Erickson 1998, 80) I believe systematic theology is the most effective study for those in vocational ministry. 

 

Bibliography

Demarest, B A. 2001. Systematic Theology. In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 1162-1164. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company.

Erickson, Millard J. 1998. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

This summer I have gone to a few weddings. I had the honor of being a groomsman in 2 of those, and the joy of witnessing another 3. The most recent wedding was tonight as Brian married Kaity in Redlands, CA. I’ve had a lot of time in the car this summer as I drove all over the west coast to pray and think about what God wants for me in terms of relationship. Sorry to say, I don’t have an answer. But, what I do want to comment on is the process by which one might begin a relationship. Be forewarned that my experience in doing this successfully is extremely limited, so this isn’t an advice giving post but more of an advice requesting post.

It starts with a connection of some sort. You like her, she likes you, you’re set up by well meaning friends…whatever, an attraction begins. From there you work up the courage to decide in your mind to ask her out………..but then nothing happens. For me there is definitely a large amount of insecurity that plays into it, but the overarching theme that i have finally pinned down is my responsibility to guard her heart. In the past I’ve always thought about guarding your heart as something I do for myself in all areas of life, something I do for others by putting their needs ahead of mine, or something a parent does for a child through wise counsel. However, in more recent weeks I have realized the importance of guarding a woman’s heart even as you pursue her.

What does that look like? I honestly don’t know, I think it changes with everyone. What I do know is that I must aim to pursue her in such a way that honors her where she is at in life and doesn’t expect her to step into my world immediately. It means praying for God to speak wisdom into her so that she knows how to respond to my pursuit, even if that means I hear the word “no.” It means absolutely respecting her in every way and doing my best to make her feel special and desired while not accelerating her emotions too far too quickly. It means recognizing that if she’s the one, taking things slow is a-ok because “I Do” means I’ve got forever to speed it up! Finally, I believe it means limiting certain expected actions (physical touch, words of affirmation, spiritual leadership) until an emotional trust has been established to warrant such actions rather than using these to falsify an emotional trust.

So, these are my thoughts and I ask for yours on the subject. Thanks for reading!

alive

Life seems more alive these days than it has in quite a while. I have woken up from a long sleep, a sleep characterized by laziness and apathy. During that time clarity was not a common occurrence and I struggled to understand some pressing questions and uncertainties that i was feeling. But now, awake, I have a new sense of clarity, focus and desire.

I’m honestly not sure what has caused me to wake up and to feel alive, but I am so glad! I do know my desire to read, learn and study has gone up dramatically which is great because I start grad school a week from Monday. I also am processing life through the lens of my relationship with God again rather than on my own accomplishments and abilities. Such clarity comes when I seek out the Holy Spirit. My drives are spent in prayer, my nights are a little more sleep deprived and my eyes are much more focused on the needs of others as I live my life again as God desires us to do so.

Another thing that has really gotten me thinking is how my desire to serve has changed. For a while my service to others was out of obligation. I can put on a pretty good show of genuineness in my serving. I was getting sick of serving because it’s my job or because that’s what people expect of me and I’m so glad that my motivation is once again coming from a genuine understanding of my place and role in Christ’s kingdom.

All this to say, others come first out of my love and desire to serve Christ. My love for Christ stems from a right view of salvation. My salvation is a free gift from God. His providence keeps me grounded.

Back in April I asked my community group to pray for me on developing compassion. You can read my initial post and where the journey began here. Since then God has been continually softening my heart and I seem to be more aware of my need to feel and show compassion to others. For the past few weeks I’ve had a big opportunity to live compassionately.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday morning I approached a homeless man who was in our children’s area and escorted him out to the church patio. That day began a relationship of sorts, where he has come into the church office a half dozen times to update me on his life and seek counsel. This has been a very humbling experience since I am 30 years his junior, but eye opening to the influence a job title can have. Over those meetings I tried to meet some of his physical needs, listen and resound to his emotional needs and encourage him in areas of success and push him in areas that need to change. I’ve even kept him in prayer on days that I haven’t seen him. The short of it is that this man has impacted my life and I have compassion for him.

But here comes the problem. As I’ve listened more and more to this man he is giving me even more freedom to speak into his life. Today I brought it pretty strong and leveled with him on some areas of sin in his life that he could no longer keep avoiding. I did it completely out of love and I pray that he understands this. However, he walked away from our time (as he normally does) with the take away’s that he wanted to hear and leaves behind those that don’t jive with his desires. This hurts me. I want so much for him to take the steps needed to be able to climb out of the disparity that is his life, but I don’t see how he can do it the way he thinks it should happen. It is frustrating to think that I can provide solutions and yet they be ignored because they either take hard work or because they are the opposite of what this man wants to hear. So my compassion has increased, but with it I have emotionally invested and feel responsible to a degree for the actions of my friend.

But isn’t this exactly what God experiences in his relationship with us? I know I must frustrate God so much at times because I know the path I’m supposed to take to be the Christian He has called me to be. Paul dealt with a situation similar to this in his letter to the Corinthian church. It says in 1 Corinthians 3:2, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.” Paul goes on to say that he lays a foundation but it is the responsibility of others to follow up and do the building. So here we come to a paradigm shift. I must release myself from feeling responsible for the actions of my friend but think about our time together as an opportunity to build up another layer of truth.

Please pray for my friend, and if any passages of scripture came to your mind while reading this that would either be an encouragement to him or to myself please share them! I love the body of Christ. Thank you for reading and for your prayers.

I’m going through a season in life of confusion and preoccupation.  My brain continually turns and wavers from the topic at hand to matters that aren’t.  Whether I’m working, resting, hanging with friends or even praying my thoughts all seem centered on a few things that I can not figure out.

Why is this, why do I allow myself to so easily think about the abstract that I can not control.  I’m drawn to my inseccurities, my failures, my dreams and matters of the heart more often than ever before.  But when I do this, when I focus on not the here and present I allow the here and present to suffer.  If I’m working my mind drifts away from my responsibilities, if I’m talking with a friend I am a poor listener, and if I’m reading I can barely make it through three pages in an hour.

I believe something has to be done.  So this weekend I will spend a good amount of time simply focused on my inseccurities, failures, dreams and matters of the heart.  I will give these items my undivided attention.  But then I must walk away from it.  I must force myself to engage with reality and focus in on whatever matter is at hand.  I can not thrive like this, it is irresponsible and I must engage in my surroundings.  If you’re reading this and I begin to listen poorly or have a hard time focusing on the present, please help me pull out of it.

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