Studying to Show Myself Approved

11 01 2009

Can I just say that I am learning a LOT in my BTCL class! For those of you that haven't been following, I enrolled in a Biblical Study Methods and Rules of Interpretation class through the Bible Training Center for Leaders back in October. I found out about the class from some staff members at Buckhead Church and so far it is blessing my socks off! It's like going to seminary but much cheaper, with much less pressure, and with no grades and no papers to write — sounds like a deal, huh?

This class is actually getting ready to end and then I'll start the next class called Old Testament Survey. These last two weeks of class our teacher challenged us to do some biblical research by way of a biographical study of some character in the Bible, a topical study, a theological study and a devotional study. I just finished my biographical study and my topical study and wow, have I learned a lot!

I did my biographical study of Timothy. I had no idea that Timothy was mentioned so many times in the New Testament. I knew that Paul wrote two letters to him (1 & 2 Timothy) but I didn't know that Timothy shows up in Acts as well as 1 & 2 Corinthians, Phillipians, 1 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and a bunch of other places. I also didn't realize just how much Paul loved himself some Timothy, and I didn't know that Timothy was probably just a teenager at the time that he met Paul so by the time that Paul wrote the letters to Timothy, it is suspected that he was around 30 years old.

As a teenager, Timothy travelled extensively with Paul to various countries, helping him to deliver messages from the elders. I guess once he got older and a little more experience, Paul began to entrust him to go out and teach the people on his own. Not to mention the fact that Timothy was raised knowing the scriptures because his mother and his grandmother were both Christians and taught him those things.

Paul had a great respect for Timothy and saw him as a son. I knew that Paul told Timothy a couple of times in his letters to stir up the gift and to not be given over to fear. But can you imagine being 15-20 years old and being sent out to preach? It must have been pretty intimidating. So much so that Paul even had to tell the Corinthians in closing his letter to them, to not give Timothy a hard time. I can just imagine them not giving him full respect because of his age. Paul also had to tell them to remind Timothy to not be fearful. So many times we have a tendency to look down on youth as though they have nothing to offer. But if they've been adequately trained, you have to give them their just due.

I did my topical study on fasting. That was very interesting as well. I learned that there was only one type of fast that was mandated by God and that was on the Day of Atonement, where the Israelites were expected to cleanse themselves. They weren't supposed to do any work and they were supposed to deny themselves and be humble before God. All the other fasts were declared because of certain situations. In most cases in the Old Testament, it was usually because of some specific kind of crisis. And crisis could be that people needed God to perform a miracle, or that they needed to petition God not to destroy them because of their sins. They also fasted when they needed wisdom or advice from God. In the New Testament, people fasted for wisdom or for keeping their hearts pure before God.

Fasting was always accompanied by deep prayer. And when Jesus talked about fasting, he talked about how fasting for show is not important. What is important is that you are humble. Fasting should be between the person and God and not a show. God also says that he would rather you be a person who genuinely cares about other people than to fast for no reason. The book of Isaiah says that God would rather you clothe the naked, feed the hungry, fight against injustice, give food to the homeless and get rid of malicious talk rather than fast for no reason. James even says that fasting is of no effect if you don’t guard your tongue.

I learned a lot by doing that study on fasting. A lot to chew on. My old church back home used to do the Daniel Fast every January for 21 days. After awhile I started noticing that I was doing it out of habit and I wasn't really getting anything out of it, because my heart wasn't in the right place. I think we had gotten to a place where doing the Daniel Fast was all about "making it through" and being able to say that you "survived" 3 weeks of eating only fruits and vegetables, and maybe you lost some weight in the process. For me, fasting was kind of like a badge of honor.

Since I've been here in Atlanta I haven't fasted, because just like many other areas in my spiritual walk, I've started to question what is the point, and wondering if some of the things that we are taught in church actually hold weight against the Bible. This year I decided to do the Daniel Fast again, but it's been very difficult. About a couple of days into the fast I started asking myself "What am I doing this fast for?" I realized that I was carrying on about my daily life. I wasn't meditating on God's word, I wasn't praying more or any of that. The only difference between January 4 and January 5 was that I wasn't eating meat. Today I learned that a fast is not so much about what you eat or don't eat. It's about humbling yourself and bringing yourself back to God. It's about sacrificing yourself to focus on what it really means to be a follower of Christ.

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