Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Holy Spirit

Happy Spring everyone!

…at least it feels like Spring today…or maybe I’m just ready for it to be! Yes, we’ve had a pretty mild winter so I can’t really complain. However, these rays of sunshine that have been peeking out the past couple of days have been getting me so excited! There’s just something about a new Spring: a newness of life that brings promise, hope, and joy. As we’re entering into this Spring at the Institute, there is definitely a newness about it, but it’s also a little sad. As a community, we’re starting to feel that the end of our time together is coming to an end. Next week, we are off on Spring Break, and then before you know it, it will be time for graduation! I really want to make the most of the rest of my time here. I want to soak up what we are learning in class, savor the great relationships that I’ve made here, and put what I am learning into practice as I begin to walk into the next stage of my life.

            This week, we are wrapping up a study on the Holy Spirit. Pete Deison from Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas came to share with us his wisdom on the subject. Early in the week, he took the time to present some different traits of the Holy Spirit in a very simple way. He simply researched places in the Scripture where the Holy Spirit is mentioned and organized the information that he learned from the text. It was amazing to me how many times the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Bible, yet how little I knew of it growing up in the church!

            The Holy Spirit has a personality. This is proven by his characteristics, such as intelligence (1 Corinthians 2:10-11), feelings (Ephesians 4:30), and will (1 Corinthians 12:11). Throughout the Scripture, we see many actions of the Holy Spirit as well. John 14:26 states, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you”. In this passage, we see that the Holy Spirit teaches. The Holy Spirit also leads and guides. This can be seen in Romans 8:14: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” He also commissions (Acts 13:14), commands (Acts 8:25), restrains (Genesis 6:3), intercedes (Romans 8:26), and speaks (John 15:26, 2 Peter 1:21).

            Although about 80% of what we know about the Holy Spirit is found in the New Testament, there is evidence of the Him in the Old Testament as well. In Psalm 104:30 and Job 33:4, we see that the Holy Spirit brings forth life. In Isaiah 40:12-14, we see that He brings order to the world. He is also the One who empowered God’s servants to do His works. This can be seen in Numbers 11:25, Judges 3:10, and 1 Samuel 10:6. In the New Testament, we can see the interactions of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. For example, in Luke 1:25, we see that the Spirit brings about the conception of Jesus. He also baptizes Christ in Luke 4:18 and launched the public ministry of Jesus in Luke 4:1-11.

            The Holy Spirit plays a huge role in the life of a believer. According to Acts 2:38, we receive the Holy Spirit at the point of our salvation. He abides with us forever! He fills us, reveals things to us, directs our paths, speaks through us, and bears forth fruit in our lives. As believers, we have the whole of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We have all of these things all of these things, all of the time. Jesus called us to bear fruit as believers and to use what we have been blessed with to bless others.  The Spirit also gives us spiritual gifts. Unlike the fruit of the Spirit, we are not given all of the gifts as believers. There are many gifts described in Scripture, such as evangelism, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, administration, showing mercy, and the sign gifts (tongues, miracles, healings).

            Over this year, I have realized how crucial and important the Holy Spirit is. He is a part of Trinity, equal with the Father and the Son. It is just as important to study Him and His role in this great Story as it is to study other things. I’m excited to learn more and grow in my understanding of Him!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Spreading the Gospel!

Hello friends!

It seems like it’s been a long time since I have written to tell you about all the crazy and wonderful things that are going on at the Institute right now. We have spent a big chunk of our time working on our personal belief statements. So far, we have written and discussed our rough drafts on God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Trinity. This Sunday evening, the draft of our belief of “Man, Sin, and Salvation” is due. These are mind-blowing things to tackle by themselves, but, on top of all of that, we have our regular topics that we discuss each week in class. We spent on time on the Trinity, Parables, and, most recently, the Book of Acts with Mitch Maher. This was a week that I was really excited about because Acts is a book that I had not spent much time in before. Unfortunately, I was sick for the majority of the week, so I wasn’t physically able to glean from it as much as I wanted to, but I did take some valuable things away from this week.

I love Mitch’s teaching style because he breaks down the points that he wants to make in a very logical and concise way. I especially liked the way that he divided the Book of Acts. Before presenting the divisions of the book that he preferred, Mitch also showed us some other accepted ways to divide the book. The first way to look at Acts is divide the book biographically, first looking at the ministry of Peter in chapters 1-12 and then looking at the ministry of Paul in chapters 13-28. The second is to look at it geographically. This idea is based off of Acts 1:8, which states, “…and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The setting of the Book of Acts begins in Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), then moves to Judea and Samaria (chapters 8-12), then to the “remotest parts” with the missionary journeys of Paul (chapters 13-28). 

The third way to look at the Book of Acts, and the perspective that Mitch prefers is to break it down in a series of progress reports. There are similar phrases all throughout Acts that refer to growth, strengthening, and spread of the believers and the Christ-following community. For example, in Acts 16:5, it says “…the churches were being strengthened in the faith and were increasing in number daily.” If you’re looking at it this way, Acts can be divided into seven “progress reports” at the end of each section. The first progress report in Acts 2:47 concludes the section on “The Birth of Church in Jerusalem” (1:1-2:47). The second is “The Expansion of the Church in Jerusalem” (3:1-6:7).  Next is “The Extension of the Church to Judea and Samaria” (6:8-9:31), then “The Extension of the Church to Antioch” (9:32-12:24) , “The Extension of the Church to Asia Minor” (12:25-16:5), and “The Extension of the Church to the Aegean Area” (16:6-19:20). Finally, we see the culmination in the book in “The Extension of the Church to Rome” (19:20-28:31).

It was very helpful to have Mitch go through the missionary journeys of Paul and spell how out how he traveled, where he went, and the books that he wrote around that time. For those of you who know me, you know that I LOVE geography, so it’s always fun to see how the Church first began in Jerusalem and then spread from there to the rest of Judea, Samaria, Antioch, Asia Minor and beyond!

Paul’s first missionary journey was to Antioch of Syria around 40-49 AD. After this journey, he wrote the Book of Galatians. His second missionary journey was to Corinth in approximately 50-59 AD. During this journey, he wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The third was to Ephesus, Macedonia, and Corinth from 56-57 AD, during which he wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans, and the fourth was to Rome from 60-62 where he ended up in prison. While he was awaiting trial in prison, he wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians.  After his release, he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus and possibly traveled to Macedonia. Finally, he returned to Rome for his final imprisonment in 67 AD and wrote the book of 2 Timothy.

What an incredible week of study despite being under the weather. So excited for what next week holds!