boyradd

Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

2018 Year in Review

Nehemiah 2:18b, 20 – They laughed at us and despised us, and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing?’… So I answered them and said to them, ‘The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore, we His servants will arise and build.

2018 was an uncomfortable year for my family and I. We had a lot of struggles come up that many families have had to face, but we hadn’t…until 2018.

Both my wife and I had job problems throughout the year. For her, the company she worked for shuttered her department and she was laid off. This led to us losing insurance and having to scramble to figure it out. Fortunately, my boss stepped up and set up a plan for us. But then, unfortunately, he neglected to pay the premiums and our insurance was cancelled a couple months later. Then, add to that, the fact that my job went through a financial downturn and paychecks were coming late, and, even those that were coming, we only partials.

This led to a lot of inconsistency in both health and finances this year.

But God….

Staying uncomfortable, when kept in front of God, leads to spiritual awakening. That spiritual awakening can lead to all sorts of blessings from God whether they be spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental.

In this case, it was all the above!

Both my wife and I changed jobs this year. My wife changed jobs because she had no other choice. After being laid off, she needed to find something new. This led to her finding a new job in the same industry but in a capacity that is a better fit for her skills. She still works from home. Every day that she works she truly enjoys what she is doing.

God knew.

He knew that she was unhappy at her last company and provided her, after going through the storm of being laid off, the mercy and grace of a new job that satisfies her emotionally, physically, and mentally.

As for me, I have been seeking to follow my call into vocational ministry. That opportunity came late this year. I started interviewing with a local Baptist church (fcbc.church) around the middle of the year, and by early December, I was able to start as their Director of Ministries. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that FCBC chose me. Even more exciting is that God granted my call!

As 2019 opens, Mimi and I are in a better place professionally and emotionally. Financially we won’t be making as much as we could have been had I stayed in the corporate world, but God….

God provides.

Even through the job craziness the past couple months, we have noticed something.

Our bank account has continued to grow.

Even though I am making less and Mimi isn’t making any more than she was before, we are actually banking more money away, and our expenses haven’t really reduced. If anything, because of 3 cars breaking down in the same week, our expenses in the final month of the year increased!

Simply put, but God…

God knows!

I am always amazed that He knows what we need and provides. I never want to be so rich that I forget about God, but I never want to be so poor that I dishonor Him either.

2 Timothy 4:17 – But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me

As for this blog, I only posted 31 articles this year, my lowest number ever.

But God…

This blog had its highest readership this year in its 7-year history!

I averaged 78 views per week with over 4,000 visitors this year!!!

It was viewed in 77 different countries, which is just shy of 40% of the world has had access to this blog! The top 3 countries are the United States (over 70% of the views came from the USA) followed by both China and the United Kingdom. I am really excited to see that the number 2 location for reading this blog was in China!!!

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 – But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

I pray that this blog is an encouragement to the Christians in China! Please stay strong, know that your sacrifice for the faith is seen by God. Your faith and your sacrifice will bring about a harvest for the kingdom. The disciples you are raising up will lead to change in generations to come. The struggles you face right now will see an amazing return in the faith of others.

Of all the stats I have ever read about this blog, seeing that it is being read in China significantly a both humbling and remarkable. I pray that God gives me the words to say that will encourage those who are risking everything for the faith.

As for the top posts that were read this year, I always facepalm when I read that my post “Spiritual Farting” is the top read post. This is now 5 years in a row that this has been the number one post.

If I can, please stop reading about spiritual farting lol. Almost 15% of my viewers for the year read that one blog post!

One key learning I have from reading which posts are the most popular is that series seem to be more popular than single posts. The series about Jesus’ disciples provided the most popular posts of those put up this year.

So, what does 2019 look like?

I have no clue. Considering most of my posts are triggered by something that happens in my life at that moment, I don’t know what I will be posting about. The rest of my life is fairly organized, so I like to give this blog to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

One thing I do know, as I move into the next year, boyradd.wordpress.com will continue to post and, God willing, grow.

Psalm 125:1-2 – Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forever.

Thanks for all your support through 2018.

Deidentified

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

When I used to work in both the restaurant and grocery industries, there were times that you needed to close down stores. Sometimes it was good, like when you were closing a competitor’s brand down because you were converting it to your brand. Then there were the not-so-good times, such as when one of your stores failed and you had to close it or when a company claimed bankruptcy and they closed several stores over a timeline.

One thing was common in each of these situations, you had to deidentify the store.

This meant that any branding materials or operating manuals or confidential information must be removed from the location. The most notable point in the process is when the front sign comes down. That is when people driving by that location for years to come will say, “I remember when such and such used to be in that spot. I wonder whatever happened to them.”

Now that I am in ministry, I hope I will never have to deidentify a church.

But the interesting thing is that today I had to do just that.

You see, Christmas holiday is over. I went into the church this morning and started looking for the boxes to pack up anything that looked like Christmas.

When I was done, I texted my wife and told her that I just deidentified Christmas.

I had to stop and pause for a moment after I texted that.

I deidentified Christmas.

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Now people driving by the church will say, “I remember when that church had a nativity scene outside and the cow was a little lopsided, it used to catch my attention every day that I drove to work.”

As a Christian, we should never think about deidentifying Christmas from our lives. Yes, the holiday itself is simply that, a day to commemorate the birth of Christ. Similar to baptism where it is an outward symbol of an inward decision. Christmas holiday itself has absolutely no power.

But the Holy Spirit does.

Now that I took that lopsided cow and put it into the shed, will that random person driving by think of Jesus? Or the church? Or even what happened on the day that we celebrate?

I hope that person will take their faith walk a little farther than just looking for a lopsided cow.

I hope they will realize the power of the God of the Christian faith. King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

But now I want to look at this another way.

Thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, if you are a member of the family of Christian faith, then you have been deidentified as well.

You see, Jesus stepped into your life, a life that was branded by the sins of your past, and deidentified you of them. He then gave you a new identity, saved.

Now when people drive by your life, they will say, “I remember that guy, he used to do such and such back in the day, but he’s changed. A totally different person!”

That’s what deidentification does.

It changes not just what is inside, but what people see on the outside as well.

So as we move into the new year, if you have spent this 2018 year being identified by your sins, then now is the time to deidentify. Reach out to the creator of identity and as for a new one. Bring about the change that will last for eternity, not just a new year’s resolution that will be gone in a few months.

If you want to know how to deidentify and get a new identity, I want to hear from you. Please email me at fred@fcbc.church. I would love to help you take this faith walk.

Ephesians 4:22-24 – To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Fear of Succeeding

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 – But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Last week I mentioned that I accepted a position as the Director of Ministry for a local Baptist church (fcbc.church). The first week has been a whirlwind! It has been amazing, difficult, challenging, and exciting all in one!

The gifts and talents that I bring into the ministry here seem like they are complementary to the gifts and talents the other staff and elders have. After the first week it seems like an amazing fit!

A lot has happened this past week with the ministry. There have been some deliveries of benevolence funds to people, helping someone find a new job, helping people get food at a local food pantry, and working with local organizations to see if they would be a good fit in our building during the off-hours.

Then there are those items that I have been doing for many years in the business industry: writing training programs for ministry leaders as well as church-wide, doing needs analysis of ministries, and studying up on topics I know very little about (when I started in the coffee industry about 15 years ago I had no clue what coffee really was, the same holds true today with ministry).

I sat down over a couple days and created some training programs. They need work, but I think they are pretty decent programs.

Then fear set in.

Proverbs 18:3 – To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.

How much prayer and seeking of God’s face did I do before working on these? I honestly couldn’t remember!

I knew I had prayed at least a little bit, but I couldn’t honestly say that I was putting God first as I put together those programs.

I hope I didn’t just do something successful without bringing Christ into it!!!

I know that ministry is tough. The first week here has been full, but not tough. I am wondering if I am missing something.

But what IS tough is keeping Christ at the forefront of the ministry.

Some tasks are simple. A door is broken, let’s get the door fixed. Not a lot of prayer time required to make sure I make the right decision.

But what about the benevolence and food pantry and job help. If I get those wrong, then more than my own ego would be in jeopardy. I honestly can’t remember how much prayer I put into them all.

Psalm 5:3 – In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

So today I started something a little different. Instead of coming in and immediately getting to work, I am taking the opportunity to dig into the Bible for a few minutes and then go to prayer. Then, when I am about an hour or so from leaving, I go into the sanctuary and pray.

This is the reason that ministry is a calling and not a job. It is very easy to get caught up in the job aspects of the ministry, but if we look at everything as some aspect of “the job,” then we will never grow and excel in Christian ministry. But, on the flip side of that, if we spend all our time in prayer, fasting and dying to ourselves, then the little details like taking out the trash, setting mouse traps, and cleaning toilets will never get done.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 – Encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

I have had several jobs in my life. Every single one of them eventually gets boring and repetitive. I am sure ministry will be no different in many ways. But the call of ministry, if we see it as such, will carry us through the doldrums and bring us into exciting high winds to fill our sails.

So here’s to hoping that I don’t see only success. Here is to hoping that I fail a little. Here is to hoping I don’t get bored on the repetitive tasks and am able to enjoy the diversity of ministry.

And here’s to hoping that this journey will bring the discomfort to me and my family that causes the awakening that God so sorely needs in this world today.

Forward to the Future

God is working a new thing.

Isaiah 43:18-19 – “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

A couple of months ago I started interviewing for a position as a pastor at a local church. Ever since graduating seminary I have desired to follow the call to pastor. I’ve applied a couple different places since graduating, but pretty much all of them said I was either too old to lead the next generation or that I don’t have enough ministry experience.

Then, a couple months ago, Friendship Community Baptist Church (fcbc.church) reached out to me to interview for their Associate Pastor position.

I went in for the first interview. Afterward my wife asked how it went. I told her that I wasn’t sure, but it is in God’s hands.

Imagine my shock when they called me back for another interview!

During that interview they asked me to elaborate on a few things that I brought up in the questionnaire that I filled out. One of those things, my views on women in ministry, was a point of question.

Throughout the next couple of interviews, that was something that was foremost in the questioning.

Suffice to say, we agreed that we aren’t too far off with regard to our theological views of women in ministry and, where we are in our individual and corporate views, we are able to still work together because, at the end of the day, this is one of those items that isn’t of significant eternal value. Many in the room had differing views, but what we learned throughout the process is that while we have differing views in certain small things, we are able to come together to impact the important things, such as bringing Jesus to Anne Arundel and Calvert counties in Maryland.

After these rounds of interviews I told my wife that everything is in God’s hands and we’ll have to see if this is a case of Paul trying to go into Asia or if this was going to continue to move forward.

The next interview involved both my wife and I meeting the senior pastor and his wife. It was a great meeting and I asked my wife to be brutally honest when asked questions. I am happy to say that she was.

Again, afterward I said that everything is in God’s hands and we waited.

Then there were more interviews and they started preparing me for the congregational interview. Also during this time the position changed and I needed to determine if my ego would kick in or if I would simply desire to be where God was going to place me.

You see, the position changed to a non-ordained role. Everything else is the same, but the ordination wasn’t going to be immediate. It is a Director of Ministries role that will hopefully, God-willing, lead into the ordination later.

1 Timothy 5:22 – Don’t be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder, and don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

I remember when I graduated seminary I desired so much to become an ordained pastor. It actually drove me so much that it must have internalized as an idol.

When this position changed, I struggled for a little while. I needed to go to my mentors and accountability and ask how I get past my idolatry.

It wasn’t until I remembered something that God had said to me a while back that I was able to see this as it is, a blessing.

God said to me, “If I were to have a HUGE revival and an awakening happen in your area, would you be as excited about supporting it if I didn’t choose you to lead it?”

That was painful to hear.

But it took one of my mentors to say to me to not focus on the word “you” in that question. Focus on the phrase “revival and awakening in your area.” See the blessing in the fact that God is about to have a revival in Southern Maryland!

2 Chronicles 7:14 – If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

When my mind started focusing on the blessings rather than myself, I was able to see this role as a tool in God’s shed. The rod in Moses’ hand. The Thaddeus of the disciples instead of the Peter.

When the church offered me the role pending the congregational vote, I was excited! God may not need me to be the next Platt or Greear or even Pastor Pat (my pastor the last 16 years) or Pastor Robert (my new pastor beginning today), but God needs me to be in the role that He is putting me in.

I got the word on Sunday afternoon that I was voted in.

I start Wednesday!!!

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to know that God is doing a new thing in my life! I had become so comfortable in the church I have been in for the past 16 years that I was not growing as much anymore. If we aren’t growing, then we are not becoming more like Christ.

It is time to take the leap. To realize that discomfort is a tool of awakening.

It won’t be easy. Satan will attack me and my family.

But God….

My God is much bigger than Satan. My God is much bigger than my fears. My God is much bigger than any position I can ever hold in any church anywhere.

My God is the end all and be all of my faith – a faith that continues to grow as I lean on Him to provide for my every need, personal, family, and professional.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Next week I will talk about one of my fears that I have as I move into this role of Director of Ministries.

But God…

It is one of my favorite phrases to say.

“But God.”

It is in the Bible, in various forms, at least a hundred times or more.

I know that through my own power, there are a lot of things that are impossible for me. Every time I see a Bible verse that has “but God” in it I know that there is some awesomely Good News following it.

Being in ministry, I have heard countless times that people can’t come to God because:

  • But I have too much baggage
  • But my sins, you just don’t know how bad I’ve been
  • But I’m not clean from drugs or alcohol
  • But I have feelings of anger and bitterness toward someone

When I hear people say this, I remember when I used to say those things. I have baggage. I have sin. I used to drink. I have definitely held feelings of anger and bitterness.

But God…

God has taken away the baggage. God has taken the sin. God has taken the “me” that used to get drunk. God has taken the feelings of anger and bitterness!

From time to time Satan will bring up all those feelings, sins, and baggage and cause me to question.

That is sin, to want to go back to where God delivered you from (remember the Israelites in the desert?)

But God…

Those times are short-lived and lead to more spiritual growth on my part because I choose to trust God every step of the way.

But God…

If you want Christians to dance and shout in the sanctuary, tell them that we will be playing Hillsong or Vineyard or Bethel music today. If the pastor gets up in front of the congregation and tells them that they are no longer dead in their sin, the congregation will sit there. Quietly.

You would think that saying something like,

Ephesians 2:1-9 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

You would think that would bring the congregation to their feet!

You once were dead but now you are alive!!!

Christian, that is better than ANY praise song out there! That is better than any guitar solo that can be played. That is better than any long-held high note that the singer can do. That is better than any new lighting trick or new sound compression.

The first century Christians understood this!

So, Fred, how was your day today?

Well, pastor, my car broke down and I had to walk to my dentist to get a root canal. BUT GOD…pulled me from the depth of hell, where I would have died without Him for eternity and gave me eternal life!

BUT GOD!!!!

If we go further in Ephesians 2, we learn that,

Ephesians 2:12 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

We were strangers!

We had no hope!

But God…

BUT GOD!!!

Let’s look at verses 3 and 7 together…

We were children of wrath BUT GOD promises eternal kindness

Now let’s look at verses 2 and 6 together…

We were enslaved to the prince of the air BUT GOD raised us up and freed us to be seated with Christ

Now let’s look at verse 1 and 5-6 together….

We were dead in our sins BUT GOD made us alive in Christ

BUT GOD!!!

Let’s look elsewhere in Scripture.

Genesis 50:20 – As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Joseph’s brothers had done evil to him, BUT GOD meant it for good.

Acts 10:28 – And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

Peter said that it is unclean for Jews to hang out with Gentiles, BUT GOD brings us all into unity.

Psalm 49:14-15 – Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.

The writer said he was on his way to Sheol, BUT GOD ransomed his soul.

Acts 13:29-30 – And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead

Jesus was put into a tomb, BUT GOD raised Him from the dead.

Romans 5:7-8 – For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

People don’t typically die for other, BUT GOD showed His love to us in that when we were still His enemies He died for us.

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong

People will think you are crazy because of this calling God has given you, BUT GOD will use the foolish of the world to shame the wise.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

We can plant. We can water the garden. BUT GOD makes it grow.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

We will be tempted, BUT GOD is faithful and will provide us a way of escape.

Any time you look at a “but God” statement in the Bible you will find that good comes after it.

You may be reading this and saying that those phrases are for people who already love God. You might be thinking that God doesn’t want anything to do with you because of your sin or your shame.

BUT GOD wants you!

BUT GOD loves you!

BUT GOD desires you and to have a relationship with you.

It is as simple as reaching out today. If you would like to know how, please comment or email me at coffeeguy777@hotmail.com. I would love to help you figure out the “but God” moment in your life.

Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 8: Simon and Thomas

This week I want to talk about Simon and Thomas. The more I study the disciples, the more I realize the mysteries that surround them and the more questions I can’t wait to have answered when I get to meet Christ face to face.

Simon:

The fact that I listed him here means you now know as much about Simon as I do. There is very little in the Bible about Simon. He did have 2 nicknames, Zelotes and Canaanite. All we can gather from those two names is that Simon was part of the Zealot party and was a Canaanite. He is mentioned only a few times in the Bible and only as part of a list, never with any back story.

But I would like to speak a little about Zelotes, or Zealot. The Zealots were a fanatical party that significantly opposed Rome. They were not fond of Jewish Roman sympathizers, which makes Simon working together with Matthew, a Jewish Roman sympathizer, so interesting. This shows that Jesus chooses people from all walks of life, wherever they are.

One other strange thing about the Zealots is that they typically sided with the Pharisees, whom Jesus typically was at odds with. Zealots had a history of passion. They were passionate about upholding the commandments in the Torah, especially those which dealt with idolatry.

One of the most famous groups of Zealots were the Sicarii. They were a violent group of Zealots that tried to expel the Roman government and any sympathizers. There is no indication that Simon was a member of the Sicarii, but if he indeed was a Zealot, he would have had a very passionate and legalistic view of the commandments

Other than that, we know nothing. There is also very little tradition about him. The only tradition holds that he preached in Egypt and was martyred there.

Thomas:

Thomas is the last of the original twelve that I will discuss. Everyone knows Thomas as “Doubting Thomas” because of doubting whether it was really Christ in front of him. He is really known as Thomas Didymus.

Thomas was pessimistic yet loyal. In John 11:16 we see Thomas say,

John 11:16 – Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

There are only 3 real references to Thomas in the gospels. The first comes when Jesus was traveling out of town and Thomas joined Him. Next we see Thomas in the upper room where he asked Jesus how to get to the place where Jesus is going to prepare for us. This is where Jesus says the very popular phrase,

John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Of course, we know that by God’s grace we have access to the eternal, Almighty God.

Thomas’ final appearance is seen after Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus joined the disciples (minus Thomas) in the upper room. Later they told Thomas what they saw and Thomas didn’t believe them. A week later, as the believers were hiding in the upper room again, that Jesus appeared and proved Himself to Thomas.

Tradition offers that Thomas went to Persia and died a martyr.

What Thomas teaches us is that as we struggle with seeing God in our daily walk in life, God will show up in our lives to show us He is there.

So which disciple are you most like? I find that I associate best with Philip. Philip was able to reason, as he was the one who figured out how much it would cost to feed the 5,000. I also associate with Philip in that he would go into groups of people that would most likely be written off and share Jesus with them. In his day, it was the Gentile crowd. I enjoy seeing Christ shared in groups of people who would never hear about Him.

So how about you?

Leave a comment and tell me what you chose.

Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 7: Matthew & Philip

After last week’s study on the two Judases, I am hoping this week is much easier study, but in doing my initial research, I am not thinking so. This week we will look at both Matthew and Philip.

Matthew:

Matthew, like all the rest of the apostles, has an interesting story to tell us. There is nothing written about Matthew prior to his decision to join Jesus other than he was a publican (some versions say he was a tax collector) and he was the son of Alpheus.

When Jesus sees Matthew, he was sitting in a tax collector’s booth along the main highway. Doing this job meant that he was collecting the duties on the imported goods brought by farmers and caravans. In the Roman system, Matthew would have paid all these taxes ahead of time and then collected the money from the people to reimburse himself. This is definitely a system filled with corruption. For example, using today’s money as a tool, if he would have paid $500 to the Roman government before collecting, he would have had to have made that $500 back plus whatever his financial needs for his family are. That means that the farmers and merchants were being overtaxed by the local collectors. Most tax collectors extorted extra money in order to profit off their time in the booth.

Another interesting point about these Jewish publicans is that they were Jewish collaborators. The Jews did not like tax collectors. They were one of the most hated people in all of the empire. Jews felt that all their money should go to support the community and God and not be used to line the pockets of the Roman empire. This meant that not only was Matthew hated because he was a tax collector, but he was a JEWISH TAX COLLECTOR! This meant that one of their own was extorting money from other Jews for profit. He was a Jewish agent of Rome.

Matthew was hated among his own people!

There are accounts of Jews not allowing Jewish publicans to marry Jewish women or even worship in synagogue.

But God…

Jesus walked by and simply said, “Follow me” and that changed everything for Matthew.

Matthew 9:9 – As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

On that same day that he chose to follow Christ, Matthew held a huge party at his home and invited several other tax collectors so that they could meet Jesus as well. In one day, Matthew went from a hated tax collector to a loved soul collector.

While it might seem damaging to Jesus’ credibility to bring Matthew on board, Jesus was very intelligent in His decision. Publicans were known for the record keeping. They had to be. At any time the Roman government could come along and ask for the records of the day. They needed to capture all the details.

This is what made the gospel of Matthew so important. Matthew was able to answer questions about the Messiah in a way that only he could do, by presenting the little details about the stories.

Matthew left a very comfortable life for a life of uncertainty. He abandoned all the pleasures that he had amassed so that he could follow the true Messiah.

After Jesus’ ascension there is little written about Matthew. We know that he wrote the book of Matthew about 25-30 years after the crucifixion, but tradition holds that he went out, as the other apostles did, and spread the Good News of the gospel. At some point he went into Ethiopia and was martyred there.

The big thing we learn from Matthew is that God can use anyone. It doesn’t matter how sinful we are. It doesn’t matter how hated we are. It doesn’t matter how hard our heart is. God can call and use anyone.

Philip:

There are at least 3, and most likely 4, men named Philip in the Bible. The first two were Herod the Great’s two sons that he had through different wives. The other two were instrumental in Christ’s mission. Sometimes people say the other two are the same person, and for that I am not quite sold yet. I can understand both sides of the argument for or against, so I will write this as if they were two separate people. They go by different terms: Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist.

Philip the Evangelist is assumed to have been one of the 72 that Jesus had sent out on missionary journey, although that is not mentioned in the Bible.

Luke 10:1 – After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

We know that Philip the Evangelist was one of the 7 deacons serving in Jerusalem

Acts 6:5 – This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

When the great persecution came, Philip the Evangelist left Jerusalem and became an evangelist to Samaria.

Acts 8:5-12 – Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

After the church in Samaria was started, the Holy Spirit led Philip the Evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch ad brought him to know Christ. Directly after baptizing the Ethiopian, God used Philip the Evangelist to preach in towns from Azotus to Caesarea.

Acts 8:40 – Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Twenty years later, Philip the Evangelist is mentioned again in Acts 21:8-9.

Acts 21:8-9 – Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

He is still in Caesarea where Paul and Luke stayed with him. Philip the Evangelist had 4 unmarried daughters who all had the gift of prophecy.

That is the final time we hear about Philip the Evangelist.

Philip the Apostle, on the other hand, has a little different trajectory. He was a Galilean and a disciple of John the Baptist’s. Philip is the one who told Nathanael about Jesus. There is little description about Philip the Apostle in the Bible, but there are a lot of interactions between Jesus and Philip.

Philip, after bringing Nathanael to Jesus next turned his sights on some Gentiles.

John 12:20-22 – Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Philip was also the one who determined how much money it would take to feed the 5,000. Then Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father. This is when Jesus replies,

John 14:9 – Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

We finally see Philip in Jerusalem to pray after Jesus’ ascension. Tradition goes on to state that Philip went to Turkey to become a missionary and was martyred in Hierapolis.

Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 6: Thaddeus and Judas

In continuing with the study in of the disciples and trying to figure out which one I (and hopefully you are playing along as well) relate to the most leads me to both Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot.

Thaddeus:

This week I figured would be easy to write. I could skate by on Thaddeus and spend the majority of the time on Iscariot, whom everyone knows. But then a mystery came up.

Matthew 13:55 – “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

As I was reading through the synoptics I came across different lists of the apostles. In Matthew & Mark there is an apostle known as Thaddeus. In both Luke, and then later in Acts, there is no Thaddeus but instead the name was replaced with Judas son of James.

Luke 6:16 – And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.

Thaddeus is an interesting guy with several different back stories that are not supported by Scripture. Allow me to explain.

As I was seeking information I went to the Liberty University stack exchange (basically the online library for seminary students) and started to look up Thaddeus, Jude, Judas son of James, and Lebbeus. Thankfully, the first part of the mystery solved when all the scholars agreed that Thaddeus, and all these other names, were the same person.

But then the mystery started to go deeper. Some scholars claimed he was a violent Nationalist, along the lines of Simon the Zealot. Other scholars claim he was a tender-hearted man. Some scholars believe he was martyred by arrows. Others say Thaddeus was clubbed to death. Some scholars say he was the son of James the Lesser while others say he was his brother. Some say that he wrote the epistle of Jude while others say he didn’t.

So let’s break down what Scripture says and turn away from the scholars for a little while. First, there is very little proof in Scripture that Thaddeus was associated with Simon the Zealot. There is no detail about how Jesus called Thaddeus to become an apostle. But in the books of Luke and Acts, when looking at the translation from the Greek, if we assume that Thaddeus is the same as Judas (not Iscariot), the original language simply says, “Judas, of James.”

While this would most frequently be translated as being James’ son, it can be used to mean James’ brother. This would then line up more logically with the epistle of Jude where the writer calls himself the “brother of James” and in both Matthew and Mark where he is called the brother of Jesus.

But then the mystery goes deep again. Judas is listed, along with James as a brother of Jesus. But John is not listed. And aren’t James & John related?

After all this is said and done, I am no closer to solving the mystery of Thaddeus than anyone else out there.

While the Catholic Church believes that Jude, brother of Jesus, writer of the epistle, son or brother of James is all the same person, I do not.

I believe that it is very easy to get confused.

One thing I notice in the epistle of Jude is that in verse 17, he speaks of the apostles but doesn’t associate with them.

Jude 1:17-18 – But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Theysaid to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”

He also associates himself as the brother of James, where as the translation in both Acts and Luke is commonly meant to mean son.

I believe these are two different people.

Other than that, there is very little that Thaddeus, or Jude, did in Scripture.

Outside of Scripture, there is a lot of tradition about Thaddeus. He supposedly planted a church in Edessa and died a martyr.

Judas Iscariot:

Typically Judas is placed last in these lists of disciples because of his betrayal of Jesus. I wanted to place him at this point to show that there is a distinct difference between Thaddeus (or Judas or Jude) the apostle and Judas Iscariot, the fallen apostle.

Almost everyone knows the story. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

He is almost the biggest mystery of all the apostles. Why would anyone who is that close the Jesus, have that much understanding of Christ’s love, betray Him?!?

A couple of interesting points about Judas is that he was the only Judean in the group. Everyone else was Galilean. Judeans thought they were better than Galileans. He was also the treasurer of the group. His calling by Jesus is not recorded in Scripture.

Even in the midst of his betrayal, Judas called Jesus “friend.” The rest of the apostles have a lot to teach us about how common people with sin in our lives can still be called and used by Christ. Judas, as well, has a lot to teach us about how if we treat our spirituality carelessly, it is easy to draw close to Christ physically but forsake the Christ in our hearts and souls. He was intimately familiar with Jesus and His teachings and yet remained in sin and unbelief.

Many people call Judas a villain. Others call him a hero. Many say that his actions show his heart and because of that he went to the grave separated from Christ. Others say he was used in the master plan of God and because of that has a special place in heaven.

But what does Scripture say?

There are a couple of key points brought about in Scripture and I would ask that you give me the ability to explain my view here before coming to judgment.

I don’t believe Judas ever had Christ in his heart, until after Jesus’ condemnation. He was not a hero. He was a villain, but God knew beforehand that this would occur.

John 13:18 – I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.

When we accept Christ in our hearts, the Holy Spirit takes up residence. This pushes the darkness out of us and makes us lights in this world.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

It is at this moment that evil can no longer enter us. It can influence us from the outside, but it cannot control us because we have the Holy Spirit within. We can choose to listen to evil, but we cannot do it without conviction because from the point the Holy Spirit takes up residence, we get convicted when we allow evil to win out over Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,

So what does this have to do with Judas Iscariot?

Judas never allowed God into his heart and soul during his time with Jesus. This is evidenced by the fact that Satan entered into Judas.

John 13:27 – Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

If that is the case, then I would argue to say that Judas was not saved at the point of Jesus’ condemnation.

But God… (I say and write this phrase a lot)

We need to be careful where we “put” Judas. I don’t have a heaven or hell to place Judas in. I am not God. Only God is God. And an interesting thing happened after Jesus’ condemnation…

JUDAS REPENTED!

That’s right. Judas repented.

Matthew 27:3-4 – When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

The other important point about Judas is that when he threw the 30 pieces of silver on the ground, where he threw it is important. He threw it on the ground in the “naos.” The Naos is the “Holy Place.” This means it was in an area of the temple that human Jesus couldn’t even go into because only priests from the tribe of Levi could enter it.

So we have a Judean priest who betrayed Jesus and repented in the Holy Place of the temple, even going so far as to claim Jesus as innocent in front of the High Priesthood. Judas could have messed everything up by calling Jesus a blasphemer or something else.

But he didn’t.

He claimed Jesus as unblemished and spotless. Innocent.

A perfect Passover.

There is so much more to this, such as why he chose only 30 pieces of silver and the entire reason for the Potter’s Field, but that is for another article.

I believe that Jesus knew Judas would betray Him in the way that he did. But, all of the apostles betrayed Jesus in one way or another. I don’t believe that Judas truly believed in Jesus as the Messiah until the realization that he set an innocent man, a perfect Passover, to be condemned. At Judas’ repentance came the understanding that Jesus really was that Messiah.

Jesus always understands the heart of people. We might look at the drug dealer or alcoholic or stripper and see someone who is far from the gospel. That was Judas.

But God works into peoples’ hearts and brings about repentance. When is only known by God. Sometimes it happens before we bring about catastrophic problems. Other times it happens after.

God only knows.

31211788 – the words 12 disciples written in vintage letterpress type

Which Disciple are you Most Like, Part 5: Andrew & Bartholomew

So far in this series I’ve discussed the three disciples that were Jesus’ inner circle as well as the other James that was a disciple. Today I would like to focus on two other disciples, Andrew & Bartholomew.

Andrew:

Andrew is, I believe, one of the most intriguing disciples. There is actually very little known about him. We know he was the brother of Peter and was also an original disciple of John the Baptist. Andrew was also the very first one to follow Jesus.

John 1:40-42 – Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

I love those verses!

Since we don’t know much about Andrew outside of bring Peter to meet Jesus, I always think that was Andrew’s sole role. Peter went on to much greater things inside the community. He was second in command, next to Jesus.

Andrew was in the background.

Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle.

Andrew wasn’t.

Without Andrew, Peter may not have had the life trajectory that he did. It is because of Andrew’s invitation that Peter went on to lead in the first community of believers.

Andrew was used to bring others to know Jesus.

There is one other instance in which Andrew is used:

John 12:20-21 – Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

This is one of the first instances when Gentiles were introduced to Christ.

I think of Andrew and my very own life as I write this. Jesus calls us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and then all the things we worry about will be given to us. With all the transition that has been happening to me and my family, I just need to remember to seek first the kingdom of God. God will provide the rest. If there is one thing I want my family (and myself) to know as I write this through the transition it is that in His kingdom all is made fresh and contentment follows as long we seek Him first.

It was that same attitude, during a significant transition in Andrew’s life (changing from following John the Baptist to following Jesus) that kept Andrew from getting jealous or overwhelmed or sarcastic or have any other negative attitude.  Focusing on Jesus and His mission is what kept Andrew content.

Andrew’s sole job was to lead people to Christ so that Jesus could bring out their calling.

What a job to have in the kingdom!

I always think of something someone told me in seminary, “what if God chose you to lead the person to Him who would go one to lead the largest revival in human history, would you be jealous or content?”

Andrew was clearly content knowing he wasn’t in charge. He knew his role and he performed it well.

Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross when the Roman leader was angry that his wife converted to Christianity because of Andrew’s evangelizing.

Nathanael (or Bartholomew):

Nathanael was also known as Bartholomew. The Hebrew name is actually Bar-Tolmai, which means the “son of Tolmai.” This could be a reference to 2 Samuel 3:3, which means that he would have been from nobility.

It was another disciple, Philip, who brought Bartholomew to meet Jesus. We don’t know for certain, so they are either very good friends or they could even be related.

Much of what we know about Bartholomew comes from his call by Jesus.

John 1:45-49 – Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Interestingly, in verse 45 it would seem that both Philip and Bartholomew were students of the Law and recognized Jesus as the Messiah because of the Law. And like most Jews from that day, they believed that Nazareth was a wicked place and couldn’t believe that anything good, much less the Messiah, could come from there.

In verse 47, Jesus gives us an idea of Bartholomew’s character. Jesus says that he “truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

Bartholomew was an honest man.

The other cool thing about this is that we get an understanding of Jesus’ omniscience. When Bartholomew asked Jesus how He knew him, Jesus replied, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Jesus was not present at that conversation.

Tradition holds that Bartholomew was a missionary to Persia and India. There is no biblical evidence of his martyrdom, but tradition holds that he was martyred. How he was martyred is up for debate as some scholars say he was tied in a sack and dropped into the ocean and others say he was crucified.

After studying through half of the disciples, it is easy to see how focused and relational Jesus was with those He loves.

Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 4: John

John is another one of those people in the Bible that can be confusing. There is more than one John in the Bible. The John of Jesus’ disciples was James the Elder’s younger brother and a son of Zebedee and Salome.

John wrote 5 of the books of the New Testament and was known as the Beloved Disciple. In his books he spoke more of love than in any other book in the New Testament. Unlike his brother, James the Elder, who was the first to die among the disciples, John was the last to die. Some say he was martyred while others say he died a natural death. He was, during the time of Domitian, exiled to Isle of Patmos.

John, along with Peter and his brother, comprised the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry. Those 3 men saw miracles that the other disciples didn’t.

Matthew 17:1 – After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

One of the things the inner circle witnessed that the other disciples didn’t include Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah. That is something I wish I would have been a fly on the wall for! He and Peter are also the first two disciples to see the empty tomb.

James & John came from a more well-off family than most of the other disciples. They father had hired servants for the fishing business.

Mark 1:20 – Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

This might have fed into their ambition and desire during Jesus’ ministry. For example, in Mark 9 we see John forbidding a man to drive out demons in Jesus’ name because he wasn’t one of the twelve disciples. Needless to say, Jesus rebuked him for that.

Later we see both James & John wanting to call down fire to destroy a Samaritan village because they didn’t welcome Jesus. And yet again, Jesus rebuked them.

Even later we see that, at the request of their mom, they requested to be seated on Jesus right and left sides in heaven. This caused some discord among the brothers and the rest of the twelve.

Matthew 20:20-24 – Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”  When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.

But John matured very well.

His proximity to and discipling by Jesus taught him love. He left his explosive temper behind. He was humbled and dropped his need for human ambition. He left everything but Jesus and His command to love.

John’s gospel is the only to record the washing of the disciples’ feet.

John 13:4-5 – so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

I believe this might have been the turning point in the humbling of John.

Jesus had so much confidence in John that, during the crucifixion, Jesus turned to John and told him to care for his mother. John took this task very seriously.

John 19:25-27 – Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

John’s early ambition melted away for humility and compassion.

Eventually, according to historical evidence, John was exiled to Patmos. According to Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher and naturalist, Patmos was an island about 30 miles wide. Other literary evidence shows that Patmos was an island that worshipped Apollo and had fishing villages on it.

Cassius Dio, a Roman historian, outlined how long John might have been exiled. It last up until Domitian’s death, at which point Emperor “Nerva released all who were on trial for high treason and restored the exiles.”

Eusebius, a Christian historian from the second century, adds “the sentences of Domitian were annulled, and the Roman Senate decreed the return of those who had been unjustly banished and the restoration of their property…the Apostle John, after his banishment to the island, took up his abode at Ephesus.”

According to church tradition, Travels of St. John in Patmos was written by the same Prochorus that is listed in Acts 6:5. It is an apocryphal writing that was translated in the 17th century and is very interesting reading, although I don’t put much stock in apocryphal writings as it is also seen as pseudopigrapha. Basically, apocryphal means it goes beyond the revelation given in the infallible Bible and cannot be proven through Scripture and pseudopigrapha means it is outright false. The reason Prochorus’ Travels is in this group is because it cannot be proven to be from Prochorus and there is no earlier text than the 5th century, which makes it a wonder if an earlier text exists. But it does give some accurate history of the island of Patmos around the time of John’s exile.

There are examples of miracles that John performed on Patmos written in the book that, to this day, are celebrated at various churches on the island.

Going back to the canon of Scripture, John has a lot to teach us. There is no one in Scripture that has more to teach us about either love or truth than John (except for Jesus, of course).

3 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

He gave his strongest condemnation against those who perverted the truth, especially those who claimed to be believers.

1 John 2:4 – Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.

Not only truth, but love he preached. He even called himself the “one whom Jesus loved.” His entire first epistle is to believers “whom I love in truth” and he exhorts them to “love one another” as they walk in the commands of Jesus.

John teaches us a lot about the relationship between love and truth. Zeal for the truth must always be balanced by a love for people. Without love, zeal for truth turns to judgmentalism. On the flip side of that, love without care of the truth become simple sentimentality. As John matured, he learned the importance of both.

The next thing we learn from John is that humility needs to win out over personal ambition. While confidence is an important quality to have, if it is not tempered by grace and compassion then we become smug and unapproachable. Jesus took the time to rebuke John when his confidence got in the way of his testimony.

John is an amazing character study when looking at how God trains up people and prepares them for the ministries for which they are called.

Next time I will start looking at the rest of the apostles, those who we don’t hear as much about.

 

 

 

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