You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Profitable Discontent

I was recently asked if studying the original languages of Scripture is ‘worth’ the time and effort involved. An investment spends something you have today for the sake of something you want tomorrow. In terms of finance, you take (hopefully) surplus money to purchase a future return on that investment. The purchase might be in the future productivity of a company, or interest payments for the use of your money.  Sometimes your investment ‘pays off,’ but other times you don’t receive the return you expected. 

Studying biblical languages is both an investment and a commitment. You take the time you have today and spend that time working to memorize vocabulary and understand grammar. Sound exciting? Not today; not for many days. The initial investment in Biblical languages is usually two semesters (one year) to understand enough vocabulary and grammar to push through the biblical text. The reward is twofold: the ability to read some of the Bible in the original language and new opportunities to draw meaning out of the text. At the same time a new opportunity arises for further investment with new challenges and rewards. With every new opportunity for further study (formal or informal) the student faces a choice: is my continued study ‘worth’ the investment of time and effort? 

I have been inspired in my own study by one of my professors. Over a break from school, he sent out an email encouraging us to keep up with our Hebrew and mentioned that he had been reviewing vocabulary. He will retire from teaching after this school year. Is continued study worth the investment? This is ultimately a personal question, since study in any field requires discipline and commitment. The only way we can gauge the potential return on the investment is to look at others who have made similar investments in the past, who are enjoying the rewards (and the new challenges) as we consider our own commitments. 

When we think about financial investors, we think of people who keep pushing and are never satisfied no matter how much wealth they have accumulated. I think we should have the same attitude toward investment in Biblical Studies: only satisfied with a little bit more. Not for the purpose of resting in our achievement, but for the purpose of serving our Lord and helping His people.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grace to the Humble

I recently had opportunity to preach for some great friends at Cornerstone Community Church’s family camp and selected a text out of 1 Peter. Here’s a synopsis of the sermon…

5b Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1Pe 5:5-7 ESV)
In my own experiences lately and in conversation with friends I realize that many of us are struggling with difficult issues. One of my friends is married to a man with a twenty year drug addiction with no desire for recovery. Several have rebellious children, who have abandoned their family’s moral standards for the sake of fascination with the world. Others are dealing with aging parents and the physical and mental deterioration that awaits us all. I decided that I wanted to better understand the lesson of 1 Peter 5:7 which tells believers to ‘cast their cares’ upon God. 

Casting our cares upon God rests upon an Old Testament promise, that God will grant grace to the humble (see verse 5). How do I become one of the ‘humble,’ for I find myself and my friends in desperate need of God’s grace? Here is an area where the original language helps understand how we have access to grace. The participle ‘casting’ is a participle of means, which tells how an action is to be accomplished. In this passage, the imperative: ‘humble yourselves’ at the beginning of verse six is accomplished by means of ‘casting all your anxieties on him’ at the start of verse seven! When I recognize that the things I am dealing with are too large for me, I have to turn them over to God. The transfer of personal burdens places me in the category of those who are humbling themselves before God, providing access to His grace.

What does grace look like and feel like? Will all my struggles disappear? I think we can all agree that the situation will not necessarily disappear. I may still have to practically deal with a difficult child, spouse or parent, but I do so knowing that God will give grace to deal with the issue. Even the awareness that God is granting you His favor makes a difficult situation easier to handle. When you ‘cast your cares’ upon Him, you can rest assured that He takes interest in your situation. You are not alone, but your Heavenly Father cares enough to carry the load for you.