Leviticus: Theological High Points

The book of Leviticus, is a manual of priestly regulations and duties and a handbook of instructions prescribing practical “holy living” for the Israelite covenant community. Though the book is rooted in priestly and liturgical writing, authorship is attributed to Moses. The documentary hypothesis of Biblical authorship would attribute the book of Leviticus completely to the P source. Whether Moses wrote the book remains unclear, however, the “content and arrangement of the legal materials were standardized very early in the Hebrew covenant experience. Hebrew rituals were unique among ANE traditions for many reasons, especially the idea of strict monotheism and an understanding of the origin and impact of human sin. The book centers on the concept of holiness, establishing procedures for Israel to follow in worship, through this they might enjoy the blessings of Yahweh’s presence. Everything in life for the Hebrews was either holy or common for the Hebrews. Leviticus institutes a cycle of sanctification for all things, which may be made either clean or unclean through rituals.

Another major theme of Leviticus is the idea of ritual sacrifice, allowing the Hebrew people to gain access to Yahweh. There are five basic types of sacrifices: grain offerings, peace offerings, burnt offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings. Leviticus 17:11 says “for the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Therefore, it was necessary for the Hebrew people to atone for their sins through ritual sacrifices. It is accurate for one to connect the Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, ceremony with the death of Jesus Christ. Under the old covenant, one could be counted as righteous as long as they obeyed the covenant requirements and their faith in Yahweh. Lastly, Leviticus extends the ideological belief of holiness into the calendar. Levitical law created festivals and ordinances to foster social and economic equality among the Hebrew people.

The modern reader of Leviticus should seek to understand that the primary command to the Hebrew people is in Lev. 11:44-45 “consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” Leviticus provided a manual on holiness designed to instruct the Hebrew community. Because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God has extended the gift of salvation to those who willingly repent from their wicked ways and profess Christ Jesus as the one true God. Before the sacrifice of Jesus, however, the Israelites could engage God and experience forgiveness through ritual sacrifice and holy living. A modern reader could connect John 1:29 where John the Baptist said “behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” to Leviticus 16 and the idea of atonement for sin. Leviticus invites the reader to see and identify with what God was doing with the faithfulness of the Israelites at that time to see what God was doing to establish real felt and lasting forgiveness. All of the faithful people of God have been able to engage God and understand what it means to be forgiven of sin.

Exodus: Theological High Points

exodus-pptThe narrative of Exodus seeks to document the redemptive work of Yahweh in delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt and establishing a unique covenant relationship with the nation. Thus, Israel emerges from a chosen family into a chosen nation, and then the nation, Israel, enters into covenant relationship and is ready to enter the promise land. The book of Exodus covers 85 years of Israelite history. Scholars cannot determine the exact date of the Exodus from Egypt, proving it to be one of the major chronological problems in the study of the OT. Based on the literal or symbolic interpretation of biblical numbers, as well as extra-biiblical historical and archaeological evidence, scholars use a plethora of information to defend their arguments. Another scholarly debate rooted in Exodus is the route of the Exodus. The exact route of the Hebrew desert trek and the location of Mount Sinai remain uncertain. Scholars have proposed several different routes based on evidence from biblical text.

The message of Exodus is twofold, commissioning Moses to lead, and established and preserved the covenant ceremonies for the Israel. God considered Israel to be his special possession, a chosen people. He delivered them from Egypt, and judged the oppressing nation for their rebellion against Yahweh because they refused to recognize His divine sovereignty. Moses sought to explain that God has not only honored the covenant that he established with the patriarchs in Gen. 12-50, but also that He revealed Himself to the entirety of Israel. God’s chosen people are called to be a people set apart. The establishment of the covenant and ceremonial rituals, beginning in Exodus 23, preserved the identity of the Israelites as Yahweh’s people. God showed himself Lord to the Egyptians, as well as revealed his nature and person for Israel. Through the confrontation of the Pharaoh with the ten plagues, God established that he is greater than the false gods of the Egyptians. Lastly, God spoke directly to the Hebrews through the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments. These commandments brought a sense of righteousness to Israel’s religion and social life.

exodusA modern reader of Exodus should focus their study on God’s great redemptive act, the revelation of God’s supremacy, and the establishment of the covenant, emphasizing historiography and theological teaching. Yahweh established a personal, close relationship with His people, calling them later in Deuteronomy 32:10, the ‘apple of His eye’. After delivering His people from oppression and establishing His supremacy over the pagan deities of the Egyptians, Yahweh confirms His covenant with the Israelites. Like Abraham, Israel must move, become a great nation, and find blessing through their seed. There is a sense of conditionality within this covenant, stating that the Hebrews must comply and obey the covenant in order to receive blessing. However, there is an unconditional nature to the covenant because God does not break the covenant despite the failure of Israel’s kingdoms and kings. The presence of God was symbolized by the tabernacle. In conclusion, although the mysterious presence of God was made manifest to Israel in alternative forms – a cloud and pillar of fire – the essential thrust of the Pentateuch narrative is the Lord dwelling in the midst of his people.

Genesis 12-50: Theological high points for your morning coffee

The book of Genesis, specifically chapters 12-50, explains how and why Yahweh God came to choose Abraham’s family and make a covenant with them. Through the covenant, the Lord preserves his promise as established with Abraham’s family, despite the many difficult situations that the patriarchs encountered. The geography of the book of Genesis, according to Hill and Walton, serves to lay the foundation for Israel’s ethnic and theological identity. The book of Genesis also explains how Israel came to be organized. When first introduced to Abraham, he is noted as a righteous man, which is contrary to the culture at the time. Abraham was instructed to separate himself from the world and follow Yahweh, and was promised a covenant with God once he met all of the conditions set before him. In Gen. 15, the Lord ratifies the covenant with Abraham. Moses gains credibility in his writings because he details the faith struggles of the patriarchs. The ultimate faith test for Abraham is in Genesis 22 where God asks him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. As Abraham obeys, overcoming many obstacles, the covenant becomes established. When Jacob is introduced to the reader, it is interesting to see that he originally appears as a deceiver. He steals his brother’s birthright and blessing. Ultimately, in Genesis 33 when Jacob and Esau are reunited, the reader understands the significant of Esau’s acceptance and forgiveness of Jacob, signifying that there should be no discord among the tribes, or more simply, among brothers. Lastly, the story of Joseph recounts how the family of Abraham ended up in Egypt. God elected the patriarchs as an act of grace, choosing them as “His instrument of revelation.” Because of God’s relationship with the patriarchs, the idea of a covenant becomes the “centerpiece of Israelite theology”.

coffeeThe text reveals many significant theological points. The story of the patriarchs details how Yahweh plans to extend the benefits of relationship and salvation through the covenant. Moses’ audience would have been familiar with the idea of a treaty, and the idea of loyalty between a servant and their master. They would have understood that obedience would ensure that they would receive the blessings of the covenant. For example, the Lord promises Abraham that his clan would be a great nation, that they would be blessed by the King and that the Lord’s name would be made great through Abraham. Moses details the various struggles that Abraham experiences, testing him and refining his faith. Another key theological idea is highlighted in the story of Jacob and Esau. Though Jacob deceives his brother, Moses points out that if Israel is to go to the promise land, brothers need to get along. Thus, it is understood that not only do brothers need to get along, but all tribes should remain loyal to one another. Through the story of Joseph, we see that the Lord blesses Joseph, making him successful, even after his brothers betrayed him, selling him to traders in Gen 37. The story of Joseph reveals to the reader that despite those around who are acting unfaithfully, God will work though the patriarchs for good to preserve the many.

The modern reader of Genesis 12-50 should focus their study on the idea of a covenant. As Moses exposed through his accounts of the patriarchs, faith is a journey. God gives his people commandments for their good and for His glory. Therefore, the reader can rightfully interpret that their faith journey will be similar to that of the patriarchs in Genesis 12-50, with a series of spiritual highs and lows. Much like the science of metallurgy, the Lord refines our faith through spiritual tests and through our life experiences. The goal of this is to bring one to a closer relationship with God. Those who are faithful to God will be set as an example for others to follow. Through the account of the patriarchs, God’s people are encouraged to be obedient to the commands of the covenant to gain salvation. Today, God has fulfilled his covenant with humanity through His son, Jesus Christ. We are still called to be obedient to the Lord and live a life that is set apart, but we no longer have to follow a strict set of rules and regulations to achieve relationship and salvation with the one true God.

Genesis 1-11: Theological Foundations

Genesis is the book of beginnings, containing foundational theological ideas echoed throughout the OT. The Pentateuch holds the pride of place within the canon. Its respect, authority and holiness are evidenced by its position and separation from other books of the Septuagint. The diverse literary plan of the Pentateuch and the differing genres included enhance the artistic nature of the work and the key theological themes unifying the anthology. The OT affirms the fact that Moses was divinely inspired by Yahweh to record Hebrew law. Scholars differ on their establishment of the chronology of the recorded events in the Pentateuch, either relying on the interpretation of biblical numerology or comparative historical events to determine dates. In terms of interpretation of scripture, John Goldingay attempts to summarize contemporary views on the subject. His views align with the methodologies developed in the Middle Ages. The OT scriptures are inherently authoritative, whether in explicit teaching or implicit theological idea.

Genesis_472_313_80Tradition holds that Moses is the author of Genesis, though it is difficult to present evidence for said conclusion. Genesis centers around eleven toledoth formulas . These are located throughout the book, and serve to organize information based on sources used by Moses. There are two main sections to Genesis, the background, or primeval history (Gen. 1-11), and the patriarchal narratives (Gen. 12-50). The purpose of Genesis is to tell how and why Yahweh came to choose Abraham’s family and make a covenant with them. The book of Genesis also carries significant geographical implications, establishing the ethnic and geopolitical identity of God’s chosen people. The first of the major divisions of Genesis, the creation and primeval history, serve to introduce who Yahweh is and what role he gave to man to fulfill. However, it is humanity who distorts the equilibrium and brought about the state of our present existence. This section documents the decline in human morality that occurred due to the fall. Through the account of Abraham in Genesis 12-25, the Lord shows that despite all obstacles, His covenants will be established and honored. The account of Joseph, Genesis 37-50, describes how the decedents of Abraham arrived in Egypt. The key themes in Genesis are the introduction of sin into the world, grace, and the idea of the covenant. Original sin was the beginning of many cycles of sin. Through God’s punishment for various sins throughout Genesis, His justice, as well as His mercy, is revealed.

The theological implications of Genesis 1-11 are fivefold. First, Moses reveals that Yahweh is king. When the Lord completes his creation, the name to which he is referred to changes from Elohim to Yahweh. This is the Lord’s covenant name and emphasizes the fact the Yahweh is King and rules over his creation. Second, Genesis reveals that Adam represents the King. Humans are charged with bearing the image of God by planting the Lord’s flag in the promise land. This was in direct conflict with the pagan practices at the time which devalued humanity. Third, Moses teaches that the king extends life. Life, as referred to in Genesis, means prosperity and a high quality of life. Moses’ audience would have understood that by remaining obedient to God’s commands in Genesis, they would be rewarded with ‘life’. Death, therefore, is the removal from the covenant blessings of the Lord. Fourth, the reader learns that the King responds to the rebellion of his people. There are many different examples of the responses of the Lord to the rebellion of His people, such as the flood narratives in Gen. 6 and the Tower of Babel in Gen. 11. Through these responses, the Lord’s judgment and mercy are revealed. Lastly, Moses sets the stage for the return of the king. In Gen. 3:15, there is a reference to “He” as the Lord punishes the snake. There are also later references in Gen. 49 that the “scepter shall not depart”, alluding to a kingly figure yet to come.

Genesis-Head500The reader of Genesis must be sure to use the similarities with ANE material to gain an appropriate perspective on the Israelite literature preserved in the pages of scripture. The covenant theology established in Genesis is the foundation of Israelite theology. As Christians, we must take the words of Genesis and plant the flag of Yahweh in our everyday life. God changed us to bear His image. Thus, we represent God in the way that we interact with others because we essentially represent someone else. By bearing the image of God, Christians can experience true life, or a fulfilling quality of life. One path, according the Deuteronomy 28:63 leads to curses, but the other path leads to life and blessing. Jesus says in John 14:6 that “I am the way, the truth and the life,” thus, if Christians follow Jesus, they can experience ‘life’ as promised in the book of Genesis. Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible. God established kingship, mandated humans with the image of God bearing, introduced futility in response to rebellion, and set the stage for the atonement for the people of God.

The Kingdom of God — Here and now, or yet to come?

KOGJesus constantly uses the phrase “the Kingdom of God” throughout the New Testament. What exactly does that mean? Has the Kingdom of God already arrived, or has it yet to come? Misunderstanding the concept of “The Kingdom of God” has lead many to believe a incorrect ‘health and wealth’ gospel.

The New Testament suggests both present and eschatological interpretations to the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom was present in the work of Jesus Christ, but would not be fulfilled until the new order is established on earth. We live in a sinful age. God has allowed Satan to have dominion over the earth. Satan attempts to deceive, kill and destroy humanity. Christians can experience some of the blessings of the Kingdom of God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am not referring to material or financial blessing, but instead the blessing of relationship with God. The introduction of sin into the world through the deception and disobedience of Adam and Eve introduced death into the world. Death means that humanity could not experience personal relationship with God because of their sinful nature. Jesus, the sinless sacrifice, died in order to restore said relationship. However, death, sin, sorrow, and pain will not be completely eradicated from the world until Jesus returns.

There are some congregations that believe that believers are able to experience all of the blessings of the Kingdom of God today, which has lead to the rise of a ‘prosperity gospel’. In order to believe in a prosperity theology, one must disregard many of the verses in the New Testament. How can you reconcile the parable of the rich man in Matthew 19:16-22 with the prosperity gospel? How is it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a need than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? In order for one to adhere to the prosperity gospel, they must disregard much of the teaching of the New Testament. A misinterpretation of Kingdom theology has led to this false teaching.

God-KingdomChristians are not called to lead a life of comfort. Though some of us might be entrusted with more worldly resources than others, it is our job to make sure that they’ve been put to work for Kingdom causes. The New Testament calls us to be in this world but not be of it. We are called to go out into all nations and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By understanding that the Kingdom of God is both here and now, and in the future, the charge to go and share the Gospel is still true. Do not get wrapped up in temporary comfort. Invest in things that bear eternal significance.

Many of you have already talked about the fallacy of the ‘health and wealth’ gospel in your posts. Why do you believe that this message is so popular? How can someone who believes in the ‘health and wealth’ gospel return to a true theology?

My Favorite of the Five Gospels

Have you ever met a member of the Jesus Seminar, or someone who has read and believes apocryphal texts, that said, “The Gospel of Thomas is my favorite of the five Gospels.” How do you argue for a closed canon?

There are still those who claim that the New Testament canon is still open. Others believe that the New Testament canon includes more than 27 books. There were additional writings circulating after Christ’s death, however, the New Testament canon is closed.

The most important factor used to determine the canonicity of a book is inspiration. In order to determine the inspiration of a book, early church leaders used three criteria: orthodoxy, apostolicity, and universality. It took writings a long time to circulate throughout the ancient world. Scribes would have to travel to write copies of the books and bring them back to their city. Through this process, there were many copies of these books throughout the ancient world. The church had already widely accepted a number of books prior to the official closing of the canon. Books such as the Gospel of Thomas did not ‘make the cut’. The Gospel of Thomas, for example, was not ‘discovered’ until 1945.

In the case of the Gospel of Thomas, the book does not present Jesus as the Messiah. Instead of a narrative detailing the life and work of Jesus, the Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings. Many of the verses in the Gospel of Thomas, such as verse 114, which says that a woman must become male to enter the kingdom of heaven, make no sense. Jesus is presented as a sage rather than the Messiah. Thus, it would not have, and does not, pass the tests of orthodoxy, apostolicity and universality. Those who compare the writings of the sub-apostolic period and the New Testament Apocrypha will see clearly that the canonical writings reflect a different quality in their content from the excluded writings. I believe that God has closed the New Testament canon.

I have heard preachers used Jude 1:3 as a defense for a closed canon. It says, ““Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about[b] long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about[b] long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” What do you think?

How do you know that the Bible is true?

I have yet to have someone come up to me and question the inerrancy of the Bible. However, I have had members of the church youth group asked me “What if Christianity is not all true?” My initial response is to ask them if they have been reading their Bible, and if they have been praying. A healthy prayer life will increase their hunger for the Word and their capacity for faith. Through prayer, and an increase in faith, one can approach the test in a trusting manner, instead of as a skeptic.

We cannot always rely on external criteria to prove Biblical text, though it oftentimes does. Another response I give is to encourage them to participate in a deeper study of the Word. You should look at the Greek and Hebrew translations of certain challenging verses in order to better ascertain their meaning. The youth who question are wise, however, even in their unbelief, to seek council and understanding of God’s truths. Lastly, I often tell the youth to read the book “More than a Carpenter” (or at least the first chapter), which provides a Biblical argument for the existence and supreme authority of Jesus.

2_timothy_3_16One must realize that, as stated in 2 Tim 3:16 that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. Adhering to the Verbal Plenary Theory of biblical inspiration, there is a dual authorship to the scriptures. God mysteriously superintended the process of writing; ensuring that every word recorded was what He wanted. As the text was translated, and recorded into new manuscripts, errors and redactions did occur. However, one must assert that this process was also divinely inspired, and thus, the Lord has a hand in every addition or redaction. When modern translations of the Bible are compared to the Masoretic Texts, some of the oldest copies of the Bible known to man, they are nearly identical. The Christian scribes showed great caution, often having multiple correctors read through their copies to check for errors.

The Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead, or trinity. Thus, the Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit does, in fact, give the believer a greater cognitive understanding of the biblical text. However, one must make sure that they are digging deep into the verses to gain a better understanding of the meaning of the text. Many of the teachings on the bible arise out of self-interest. Again, I have not had any personal experience with someone who has defended their illegitimate interpretation of a passage by appealing to the Holy Spirit. I do believe that many people, however, take portions of the Bible to attach to their testimony, or to support their argument, though that verse is not what the Biblical author intended it to mean.

2Peter1v20_21As 2 Peter 1:20-21 says,” Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” We must be careful to ensure that each detail we interpret from scripture is correct. One Sunday morning at Church, a man was giving his testimony. He said, however, that in Genesis 32, Jacob lost his wrestling match. Gen. 32:24-25 says “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.” The interpretation given from the pulpit sought to fit the nature of the man’s testimony. Though the speaker’s message was meaningful and powerful, this detail was misconstrued to fit the nature of his message.

In situations such as this, I appeal to the scriptures to prove themselves. Oftentimes, scriptures that are difficult to understand can be cross-referenced for better understanding. Also, it is wise to seek council on verses that are not easily interpreted. Studying the Bible must begin with prayer and worship. We must desire to study the scriptures with due diligence in order to correctly interpret their meaning.

It didn’t have to end this way- a suicide epidemic at Appalachian State University

Great thoughts on some recent events at my Alma Mater. Praying for these families!

It’s midnight, and I have to work in the morning.

It’s midnight, and somewhere, many somewheres, i’m sure; there are people- mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, best friends, neighbors, who are lying awake wondering how they’re ever going to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t pretend to be any kind of counselor. I’m not a trained mental health clinician in any way. But what I am is a SURVIVOR. I was that person laying awake at midnight, at 2am, at 5am, wondering how I was going to handle going to school the next day. I was worried about how I would hide the fact that I couldn’t eat in front of the other kids because I was scared that I was going to choke on my food. I was worried about the sadness that lurked around every corner. I was worried about the manic-depressive highs and lows that…

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Christian Life Hacks

People are awesome.

And people come up with ingenious ways to make their lives easier. Check out some of these incredible Life Hacks.

Contrary to popular belief, God did not call Christians to a life of comfort. Francis Chan said, “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He call us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” James 1 say, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Recently, I wrote about the many things that distract us from our relationship with Christ. Our comfortable lifestyles can keep us from fully answering God’s call on our lives.

Our biggest fear should be succeeding at things in life that do not bear eternal significance.

The word “hack” means ‘to modify, usually skillfully’. What are things that we can do to stay plugged-in with God? How can we skillfully modify our walk with God?

Join a Small Group

I am so excited to see that many ministries are moving to the small group model. This is exactly the way that Jesus did ministry. He spent the majority of his time with 12 people, investing in them, teaching them, loving them. Yes, he taught large groups as well, but the bulk of his time was spent in a small group setting. Small groups provide a support group, people you can pray with, study with, and do life with. If you are not plugged-in to a small group, I strongly encourage you to!

We are called to be devoted to one another, accept each other, edify one another, confess our sins, pray, serve, and love one another. Small groups provide a great way to fulfill all of these New Testament commands.

Bible Study Book

One thing that Seminary has helped me realize is that there are a lot of people who know a whole lot more than I do. I want to learn from those people.

Oftentimes, I find myself wondering, “where do I start” when I open my Bible. Sometimes I want to wait for the Lord to ‘tell me what book to read’ etc. As Christians, we should have an insatiable appetite for the scriptures. We should desire to read them daily. I still need a lot of work to maintain daily devotions, but I do enjoy going through bible studies as I read my Bible. I have found that it helps me focus, it helps me understand the meaning of the scripture, and keeps me motivated. I encourage you to do your research and find a sound, biblical author, and use that resource to supplement your study of God’s word.

Pray 

This one is obvious, but so often overlooked. As a friend of mine shared recently,  if we do not pray, “either we are not truly concerned with people, or we are not totally convinced that prayer matters.” When we pray, we acknowledge that God is sovereign, and we submit our will to His. I encourage you to make a habit of praying daily.

Have you ever thought about how much Jesus prayed? If the Son of God, fully divine and fully human, savior of world, needed to spend time in prayer, how much more do I?

Think about God All the Time

I have found this to be one of the most helpful ‘hacks’ for my life. When I have time alone, reading, driving, exercising, I try to focus my thoughts on God. I remind myself of the Gospel message and the Lord’s amazing grace. I open my heart and my mind to the things that the Lord is saying to me.

The Lord really touched my heart because of this. The best part about this is that it is totally biblical. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Shift Perspective

This is one of the coolest things that I’ve been doing. In daily situations, I try to ‘shift my perspective’. I want to see the situations of my life through God’s eyes instead of my own. For example, I had a student come in and talk to me this morning. He had been send home the day before. I said a silent prayer asking the Lord “Why me? Why now?”. I had the opportunity to speak truth to this student, and share about the sinful nature of humanity. It is our job as Christians to constantly sow.

During one of my planning periods last year, I had another student come into my room. She was concerned about a friend of hers (another student of mine) and some of the choices that individual was making. Again, I saw this not as a chance conversation, but as a divine appointment. I was able to share with her a Godly way of dealing with her friend (Matt 18:15-18), and address reservations that she had about Christianity. Again, our job is to know our role in these situations and to constantly sow.

The Details

Our youth minister, someone whom I deeply admire, always tells me, “see God in the details.” I distinctly remember the moment when this message hit home. I am a very schedule oriented person. We were enjoying a free afternoon while on a mission trip in Washington D.C. Many of the groups had just finished touring some of the monuments and were about to board a bus from the Lincoln Memorial to Union Station. However, there weren’t enough seats for everyone and the next bus wasn’t scheduled for another 30 minutes. I immediately turned to our youth minister in horror. Before he could say anything, another bus pulled up right behind the 1st, 29 minutes ahead of schedule, and we were all able to arrive together. He looked at me and said, “see God in the details.”

It is moments like these that remind us of that the Lord loves us. The Lord said, “are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” 

Respond

I hope that you can implement one, or more, of these ‘hacks’ in your life. I pray that your relationship with Christ would become so contagious that you cannot help but share it with others. Build up yourself so that you can build up others.

Is your testimony strong enough?

Tes·ti·mo·ny – a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience.

“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” – Revelation 12:11

Have you ever thought that someone has a ‘stronger’ testimony than you? Have you ever been hesitant to share your story because you don’t think that you’ve had a hard life? That your story isn’t good enough?  You think that others won’t be moved?

Me too.

Shameless as it might sound, I’ve thought that maybe I should do drugs, get involved in sketchy situations, etc., just to be able to have a stronger testimony. I could talk about how the Lord delivered me from those dark times in my life, and he can do the same for others.

I cannot be the only one who has thought this.

Maybe you’re not supposed to have these experiences. Maybe your testimony isn’t meant for the masses, maybe it was meant to touch the heart of one person. Regardless, we have to remember that our testimony is HIS story, not OUR story. 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.” I Peter 3:15

You can read Paul’s testimony in Acts 26. He recounts how he came to know the Lord. In doing so, he lays out a basic outline for sharing our testimony.

The “Before”

Many of us have been entrenched in sin our entire lives. We all come to a realization that this life of sin leaves us unsatisfied. We have deeper needs that only Christ can satisfy. Where were you at that moment?

The “How”

When you write your testimony, make sure to include the circumstances that caused you to consider Christ as the solution to your deep inner needs. Identify the events that led to your conversion.

The “After”

Make sure to share how Christ met your deep inner needs. Before, you tried to do this on your own. After accepting Christ, he now meets those needs and has offered eternal life.

Respond

We will never truly understand the impact that we have on others. It is not our job to judge our testimony, instead, we should share our story, and trust God to do the rest. We may be the sowers or we may be the reapers. We must trust the Lord when he says, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Go and tell your story.