Saturday, May 23, 2009

Heading to Peru

This post is coming kind of late. I got a call the other day from an Extreme Nazarene employee telling me that I have been accepted to go to Peru. It's been about 2 months since I first looked into 40/40 and now I know I'm accepted. At first I wasn't 100% sure that Peru was where God wants me but during the interview for this trip I felt like God gave me a peace about it all. To wrap this up I just wanted to let all you who follow this post to know that Peru is the next step of the journey. I'll keep this blog updated as long as I have the ability to do so. I would appreciate your prayers before I leave and especially while I'm down there. Thanks!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Story of the Bible

The Story of Two Marriages
By: Gary Crites

*The Bible is made up of 66 books, all of which contain various stories. Contrary to popular belief the Bible is a library not a book. However, this library has one main overarching theme. That is the story of two marriages, a love story.
*In the beginning God created the earth, the heavens and all the inhabitants thereof, namely man. Out of all mankind God selected one man, Abraham, through whom He would consecrate one people to be a holy bride for Himself, namely Israel. God chose them, gave them all they had and entered into a holy and eternal relationship with them. However Israel was unfaithful to God time and time again. Their adultery disgusted God so much that He chose to separate Himself for a time from Israel. Because of this separation God instituted another marriage between His Son Jesus and the church. The purpose of this marriage is to make Israel jealous and turn back to God in the end (Revelation).

Marriage One
*The Old Covenant or Old Testament is comprised of 39 books. All of which show the development of God’s chosen bride Israel. We will first see how God created all that exists today. How He made man to be a holy and sinless creature, one that He could have an intimate relationship with. We will see how sin entered into the world and devastated man’s relationship with the LORD. After God created man He went into a selection process (Genesis 12-22) in which He instituted a promise between Himself and Abraham. A promise that through Abraham’s line God would choose a people to be His bride for eternity. After this promise we will see God’s people face a period of 400 years in which they are oppressed and enslaved by the Egyptians (Exodus). After the 400 years is over God will raise up a deliverer, namely Moses, who will set God’s bride free. Once again, God’s people will face various trials and temptations as they trek through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. During this period God will give His people a three part law in which they are to obey in order to please God. After time well spent in the desert, God’s people eventually arrive in the land and take it over one piece at a time. After a long period of conquering the land, Israel eventually settles down and establishes a temple in which they are to worship. Although Israel is extremely blessed by God she is constantly in a cycle of sin and adultery. As a function of God’s grace He gave His bride warnings and time to repent. Through the prophets God warned Israel of coming judgment if she did not get her act together. God gave Israel more than her share of chances to repent, however, she forsook God and hardened her heart towards Him. God eventually divorced Israel and sought another way to get His beloved bride to come back to Him.
*The first book of the Bible is Genesis or Bereshit in Hebrew. It is written by Moses, God’s chosen man to deliver Israel out from under Egypt’s slavery. This book tells us of a number of historical events such as the following: creation, the fall, the flood, the biography of Abraham, the roots of God’s bride Israel, etc. In the first chapter of Genesis we see that God created the earth and all that is in it. He created light, water, plants, animals, fish, sky, and everything we see around us today. Although all of this is important, in chapter two we see God create something very special, something in His own image, someone named man. The account of the first person created was that of a man named Adam. God created Adam a holy and sinless creation, one that He could have an intimate relationship with. After God made Adam He placed him in a Garden called Eden (Genesis 2:8). The only instructions God gave to Adam upon putting him in the Garden was to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17). Although Adam was created to have a relationship with God, God realized that it was not good for Adam to be alone so He created a suitable helper for him, a woman named Eve (Genesis 2:18). This relationship was perfect and holy because it was created by God and under His submission. Although the relationship was perfect, man did manage to find a way to destroy it. A character named the Serpent enters the scene in Genesis 3:1 and tricks Eve into eating from the tree which God commanded Adam not to eat (Gen 3:3). Eve obliged and gave some fruit to her husband as well and he ate (Gen 3:6). Immediately their eyes were opened and they knew both good and evil (Gen 3:7). God, being holy and not able to cohabitate with sin was moved to push Adam and Eve from the Garden. This is the account of the creation and the fall.
*In Genesis twelve through twenty-two we see the beginning of God’s selection of Israel as His chosen Bride. We could call this the engagement period of the first marriage (1850 BCE). In this section of Scripture God makes nine promises with Abraham concerning Israel. In the first promise (Gen 12:1-3) God tells Abraham that he will become the father of many nations, but first God wanted Abraham to leave the land he was living in and move to a land that God would show him, later known as Canaan. In the second promise (Gen 12:7) God tells Abraham that He will give the land to his descendants (the 12 tribes). In promise three (Gen 13:14-17) God’s reinforces the fact that He will give the land to Abraham’s descendants, yet not only will He give the land to them but He also tells Abraham that they will possess it forever. In promise four (Gen 15:5) God tells Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars of the sky. In promise five (Gen 15:13-16) the tone changes from positive to negative when God tells Abraham that his descendants will be enslaved for four hundred years. Promise six (Gen 15:18-21) maps out the land that God will give to Israel. In promise seven (Gen 17:1-21) God explains the covenant He will make in much more detail. In promise eight (Gen 21:12-13) God promises Abraham a child named Isaac. God tells Abraham that through Isaac his descendants will be named. The last promise God gave in this selection process is in Genesis 22:16-18. God promises and swears by His name that He will greatly bless and multiply Abraham’s descendants. In this section it is very clear that God will create His covenant, an everlasting covenant with Israel. This is the account of God’s selection of Israel.
*In Exodus (Shemot in Hebrew), the second book of the Bible, we see the fifth promise of God to Abraham come true (Genesis 15:13-16). The Israelites are enslaved by the Egyptians for a 400 year period. Although this goes on God never forgets His promises or His people. In Exodus chapters one through three we see God raising a leader to deliver the Israelites, his name is Moses, the author of the first five books of the Bible. After Moses is trained God sends him on a mission to retrieve Israel (Exodus 4-11). Pharaoh is most obviously opposed to this idea and hardens his heart towards God and His messenger Moses. Because of this God sends ten plagues to devastate the nation of Egypt, each plague proving the Egyptian gods to be powerless. After the tenth plague Pharaoh decides to let Israel go and Moses then leads them out into the wilderness on a forty year journey which will eventually take them to the Promised Land, a place called Canaan.
*During the long journey God gave Israel a three part law in which they were to obey in order to please God (1500BCE). The law consists of civil, criminal, and constitutional codes of law. The civil code is found in Exodus and Numbers. This code of law instructed Israel on how to live while on the camping trip in the desert. The criminal code found exclusively in Leviticus is a series of sacrifices. This code was a method of worship and atonement of sins for the Jewish people. Lastly, the constitutional code found in Exodus 20-23 and Deuteronomy gave Israel their identity, it’s what made a Jew a Jew.
*During the wilderness journey the Israelites became rebellious and exceedingly sinful. They were given many chances to repent and turn from their wicked and adulterous ways, however, they decided to live in their sin and forsake God. Because of this God made Israel wander in the desert for forty years until the whole generation that came up out of Egypt died off. Their sin had cut them off from entering the Promised Land. However, their children, if obedient would inherit the land and experience the promises that God made to Abraham back in Genesis.
*Upon close arrival to the land of Canaan Moses, God’s chosen leader of Israel, died and did not enter Canaan due to his sin in Numbers 20:11. Along the camping trip Moses had been preparing a leader named Joshua. Moses knew that his time was short and that he would have to pass on the leadership to another after he was gone. This is the account of the slavery and deliverance of God’s bride Israel.
*In Joshua we see the account of Israel entering, conquering, and dividing Canaan. Entering Canaan is the first section of Joshua. This section starts in chapter one and goes through chapter five. It gives us the account of the Israelites entering the land of Canaan. At the beginning of chapter one we see Joshua has now assumed command of God’s people and is ready to lead them into Canaan. In chapter two Joshua sends people to spy out the land so they know what to expect. In chapter three after they cross the Jordan River they finally set foot in the Promised Land. This is the climax of the first section of Joshua. In the second section, conquering Canaan (Joshua 6-12), we see the judgment God brings on the nations that are living in Canaan via His people Israel. The nations that lived in Canaan upon Israel’s arrival were exceedingly sinful and the time had come for their removal from the land. This is the part of the book where Israel takes hold of the land God has for His bride. It paints a beautiful picture of a marriage in which God sweeps His bride off of her feet and takes her home to the place that He has prepared for her. This marks the account of the inheritance of Israel.
*Although God had selected Israel (Genesis 12-22), delivered her (Exodus), and given her an inheritance (Joshua), she still forsook God and chose a life of adultery and sin. The book of Hosea sets up the picture of Israel’s sin for us in a very graphic yet understandable way. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute in Hosea chapter one and Hosea obeyed God. The prostitute went on being an unfaithful wife yet Hosea remained a faithful husband. God used this as a picture of Israel in the mid 700’s BCE. Although it is ahead of the time of the Judges (1300-1050BCE), it sets up the scenario for the book of Judges. In the book of Judges we see the infidelity of Israel. We will see how Israel’s sin hurts God, yet in the midst of their sin God is still willing to help His bride.
In the book of Judges there are seven cycles of sin. Each cycle includes the following pattern: sin, slavery or servitude, supplication or prayer, deliverer or deliverance, and peace or rest. The ironic thing is that seven is the number of completion and that is the number of the sin cycles in Judges. During this period of Israel’s history God raises up 13 judges or leaders for Israel. Each judge acts as an agent of God’s grace in this sinful period of Israel’s life. Towards the middle of each sin cycle Israel is either in slavery or servitude to another nation. The judges that God raises up will the deliver Israel from her oppressors. This part of Israel’s life is very important. It shows us God’s faithfulness to His bride Israel. Even though she was not true to Him he was and has always been true to her. This section of Israel’s life foreshadows the need of the second marriage. Since God’s love, faithfulness, and wrath were not enough for Israel to straighten up, God will eventually have to institute another method to get His bride back. This marks the account of Israel’s adultery.
*After the period of the Judges (1300-1050 BCE), Israel seems to be in a downward spiral of self-destruction. Israel does not want to rely on God to be her leader so she asks for a king to lead her instead. We see in 1 Samuel eight that Israel demands that God give her a king. God gives her what she asks for although He knows it would be better if they chose Him as their Captain. The period after the Judges is known as the United Kingdom period and spans from 1050-928 BCE (1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings 1-11). The United Kingdom period is defined as the time when both Southern and Northern Israel function under the rule of one king. After 928 BCE both the Southern and Northern Kingdom split and are ruled over by two different kings. The United Kingdom period is comprised of three main kings, Saul, David and Solomon (found mainly in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings 1-11). Saul is the first king and he seems to be a promising man (1 Samuel 9-15). He has all of the promising physical characteristics. He even starts off with a great walk with the LORD. However, he ends up in a downward spiral of sin and disobedience to God. During the reign of Saul God starts to raise a young shepherd boy named David to take the throne (1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel). Although he’s small in stature and not physically the ideal king, he’s God’s anointed king. Eventually, around 1000 BCE, David takes the throne and rules for about forty years. David is pronounced a man after God’s own heart and is even promised by God that Messiah would come through his line. This is again foreshadowing a need for the second marriage or new covenant. After David, his son Solomon takes over the throne and is extremely blessed by God in the beginning of his reign (1 Kings 1-11). God lavishes on him wisdom, power and wealth. Yet sadly, Solomon is eventually taken down by his lust for women who serve foreign gods. He reigns for about a forty year period and then dies a sad death due to his severed relationship to God. All three kings constitute the United Kingdom period and are all recorded in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings 1-11. This marks the account of the United Kingdom.
*From the year 928 until about 430 BCE about half of the books in the Old Testament were written. This is the period of the Divided Kingdom, more specifically the time when Northern Israel and Southern Israel (Judah) split. Part of Israel’s sin included that they did not give their land the Sabbatical rest that God commanded every seventh year. For seventy Sabbatical years they did not give the land rest, therefore God chose to have Israel carted off to other countries for a four hundred and ninety year period so the land would have the rest it needed. In Daniel nine we see the prophecy of the four hundred and ninety year captivity period. In the year 722 BCE the Assyrians came against Northern Israel and took them into captivity. After this only Southern Israel (Judah) was left standing. Even though Judah survived God did not remove their judgment from them. In 606 BCE the first wave of Babylonians came against Judah, then a second in 597 BCE, and lastly a third wave in 586 BCE took them out for good. This completed the captivity of Judah.
*In this period God poured out so much revelation on His people through the prophets. God showed them their sin and disobedience and even gave them many chances to come to repentance. About half of the Old Testament is made up of the prophets which were written during this period. There are a total of four Major Prophets and 12 Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. Almost all of the Major Prophets are written during the time and perspective of the captivity. The Minor Prophets were written mainly after the captivity but still in the time of the Divided Kingdom. The prophets are a great picture of God’s grace toward His people. They show us that God wants to live in peace with His bride and that He wants the best for them. This marks the period of the Divided Kingdom.
*In the end of the Old Testament God eventually leaves the temple in Jerusalem and divorces His bride Israel for a while. God will then institute another marriage that which is portrayed in the New Testament between His Son Jesus and the church. The purpose of this is to make His people Israel jealous and turn back to Him in the end (Revelation). Although God separates from His people for a short time the Old Testament writings show us a great picture of who God is. Although He judges, He does so to bring us closer to Him. Although there are penalties He institutes them for our benefit. He is a loving God that wants the best for us. This marks the account of the second marriage.

Marriage Two
*Marriage two was alluded to many times in the Old Testament. It would be the coming of the Messiah (Isaiah 49-55). Since we’ve looked at Israel’s past and have seen their unfaithfulness to God (Hosea), we understand why God will institute another marriage to bring His people Israel back to Him.
*Marriage two is also known as the new covenant or New Testament. In this marriage God sent His Son Jesus to earth, to live, to die, and rise again. This was the initiation of a beautiful relationship between Jesus and what would later be known as the church. During Jesus’ ministry He chose twelve main disciples, ones whom He would teach and train. They would later become leaders or founders if you will in the church that we have come to know, even today. This marriage is unique in the fact that it replaces the old criminal code back in the book of Leviticus. No longer are sacrifices offered to God (Leviticus) because Jesus is our sacrifice. Also, Jesus allows us direct access to the throne room God. Proof of this is in Matthew 27:51 when the veil was torn. This was a sign that we would now have direct access to God, no longer would a priest have to mediate for us but only the High Priest Jesus Christ. Not only does the new covenant promise eternal life and salvation but also a relationship with the Lord in which we are cleaned and sanctified. This sanctification process (Romans 6-8) is one of the factors that will make Israel jealous leading to their return to the LORD in the end of the age (Revelation).
*In the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), also known as the Gospels, we see the initiation of the second marriage. We see the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus the very Son of God, born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18-25), is the mediator of the second covenant, the One through whom we have direct access to the Father. Jesus’ main ministry does not start until He is about thirty years of age. Although His ministry only lasts for about three years, Jesus fulfills all of the Messianic prophecies and characteristics that are in Isaiah forty-nine through fifty-five and other O.T. passages. During Jesus’ ministry He has twelve main friends or disciples, those of which He will eventually trust with starting His church. When Jesus reached the age of 33 His ministry started to create much controversy. The Pharisees and Sadducees were not particularly fond of Jesus since He taught things contrary to their belief and the belief of that day. Eventually Jesus was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to crucifixion, one of the worst ways to die in that time. It’s important for us to know that Jesus completed life as a sinless and holy being, if this were not true than He can not be our perfect and holy sacrifice and the Christian faith would be void. Jesus carried out the sentence in obedience to God’s plan to redeem all mankind. By dying on the cross Jesus took the sins of the world upon Him and became the one-size-fits-all sacrifice which offers salvation to all of mankind. That is, for all who would call on His name and choose to make Him Lord over ALL of their life. This marks the initiation of the second marriage.
*The Apostles (now eleven after Judas betrayed Jesus and hung Himself) were the main founders of what is known as the church today. Jesus entrusted His disciples with the responsibility and privilege of starting His church. Most of the records of the Apostles journeys in starting the church are recorded in the book of Acts. After Judas hung himself, Jesus appeared to a man named Saul (Acts 9:3-9), later known as Paul, and commissioned him to be a disciple. Paul became one of the main founders of the church. He is credited with being the first apostle to bring the Gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles. He also wrote thirteen epistles in the New Testament, most of which are to churches that he started. Although Paul boosted the church in its early stages, all of the other disciples were also very key in the transmission of the Gospel. It’s important to know that almost every one of the disciples died a horrible death for what they believed in. The Christian faith, or the second marriage, is based on the testimony of believer after believer that was willing to pay the price because they knew that their life had been changed by Jesus. This marks the early phases of the transmission of the Gospel.
*Contrary to popular belief the church DOES NOT replace Israel’s role. God instituted the church as a means to make Israel return to Him. The relationship between Jesus and the church is the picture we should follow for forming a marriage in the way it should be. To be considered part of the church you must first accept Jesus as Lord over all of your life and then allow Him to work in your life daily to clean and sanctify you. In the end times (Revelation), we see that Jesus comes for His bride. The whole time up to the end He prepares her, justifies her, and sanctifies her for the purpose of presenting her before the Father as a pure and spotless bride. This marks the definition and characteristics of the church.

The Conclusion
*The story of the Bible is simple, yet at the same time all of the issues involved in the context of the overarching theme can become rather overwhelming. The Bible is a practical tool useful in everyday life (2 Timothy 3:16) not a book of old stories and fairy tales. The stories given illustrate principles that show how to deal with life, people, problems, and much more. God wants us to know His Word. He wants you to know that if you follow the rules and instructions in it you will live the most fulfilling and exciting life imaginable. Know God’s Word so you can know Him!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Final Exam

Today I took my final exam here at GCBI. It was 67 questions followed by an essay in which we were to explain the story of the Bible in 6 hours. The only reason I tell you this is because I am going to post my essay in hopes that it might be helpful to some of you regular viewers. Since not all of the student are done I won't post it until after Thursday at midnight when the paper is due. Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coming to a Close

Well, it's been 9 months. Time really does fly by. I can't believe it was 9 months ago that I first set foot in Sebring, FL. When I came to Sebring it looked like such a long time to spend away from home but looking back I can only wonder where the time went. It's truly been a life transforming year for me. If you can spend a year in God's Word and not be changed by it than something is wrong. I've finished this step of my life, but the question is, where will He take me next? Maybe Peru, maybe not, all I can say is that He knows what He's doing. He's doing something, something mysterious and beautiful. He's changing me. He's conforming me to be more and more like Him everyday. Father, thank you that you have an amazing plan for all who choose to follow you.

I want to thank everyone who made this step in my life possible, especially Mom and Dad. I couldn't have done it without you guys, you mean the world to me, I love you. Everyone else who stood and stands behind me I thank you. I hope that my life is an encouragment to all who are around me, a testimony that God can change anyone. Thanks again!