We’re Back! A New School Year

Introduction and Greeting

Hello faithful family, friends, and followers! It has been far too long since our last update. Initially, Samantha and I had decided to put a hold on our blog over the summer while we traveled to see family and meet speaking engagements, but due to unseen circumstances, it has taken much longer. Much of our last 2 months has involved the flu, allergic reactions, ear infections, strep… all of this on top of prepping for school lectures and Benaiah’s 1st birthday! I have many excuses, but I’ll spare you and just dive right in to what’s going on!

What’s New

First piece of exciting news: our new School of Biblical Studies year is in full swing! Meet the students 🙂

This group has been incredibly encouraging to us staff and it has been evident that they truly have a hunger to know God deeper through His Word. These individuals did the seemingly crazy thing of dedicating 10 months of their lives to intentionally studying their Bibles together. These are 6 individuals that will go out into the world with a foundation in Biblical literacy! What an encouraging thought!

As some of you might be aware, the School is only one of the ways that we seek to minister and encourage Biblical literacy within our community, another way we do this is through our Biblical Narrative Series. This series is designed more like a church study series, where we meet one night a week for two hours and walk through the entire story of the Bible over the course of about 14 weeks. As we began our planning process for this series, our goal was to have at least 25 people sign up. Unbeknownst to us, God had a different plan in mind and we ended up having 76 people from 10 different churches and denominations commit to this program of walking through the story of the Bible book-by-book. Hallelujah!

We could not be more excited, as God has used this moment to renew our vigor and commitment to reaching this community that is clearly hungry to know their Bibles! Please pray that God would use this year to bless the students and their studies in each of our programs.

What’s on our heart today?

This past month I had the privilege of teaching the book of Deuteronomy in our School.

This is an incredibly important book. That’s an easy thing to say for any book of the Bible, but Deuteronomy really sets a theological foundation for the rest of the Old Testament and is quoted often by Jesus as well. In this book, Moses gives a series of speeches, exhorting the Israelites to: Remember God’s covenant faithfulness and the consequences of their sin, to Reflect on their current condition of their hearts and the choice lain before them, and finally to Renew their commitment to Yahweh through covenant obedience.

And with the end of the Pentateuch, we’re given a vivid image of the salvation story. In Genesis we’re introduced to a God who is good, creates, and pursues with love. But also we see a relationship that is broken and in need of fixing. In Exodus we see God freeing his people from slavery, not because of their worth or what they could offer, but simply because they cried out. Through the rest of Exodus and Leviticus, we see a God who dwells among his people, teaching them how to live in right relationship with Him. The book of Numbers shows the consequences of sin and disobedience and a God who relentlessly pursues his people despite their rebellious ways. Deuteronomy ends with an exhortation unto life as the people of God and a hopeful expectation for the fulfillment of a promise that belongs to the people of God. Almost every book after Deuteronomy in the Old Testament points back to Deuteronomy and the message it gives. (And as I’m writing this I’m really starting to nerd out on all the other ways we could go in depth with these books and the way they reflect the story of salvation, but I’ll save that for anyone who wants to send me a personal message and then maybe we can dialogue more and nerd out on the Bible together). And I’ll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that I really love these first five books of the Bible and how they bring life to our understanding of the New Testament! If you’d like a summary of the message in Deuteronomy, I’d recommend reading Ch. 4!

Final thoughts and prayer requests.

As some of you may know, Samantha and I have remained short of our financial goal for being able to work full time for Emmaus Ministries. We were hoping that would change over the course of the summer, but unfortunately that didn’t end up being the case. Because of this, Samantha and I are scaling back our responsibilities in the ministry and are currently looking for part time work. I must admit that this has disheartened us, but God has continued to show us that his hand is at work in the ministry and in our lives and we have hope for the future! Obviously, we would love to come to a place where we can commit full-time to the ministry once again, but we’re trusting that God is using this time to prepare us in some way. Please pray for us as we seek wisdom in how we should move forward in this season and that God would bring us to a place of financial provision and stability.

We would also ask for your prayers over Samantha’s family, as they just lost a beloved family member (Samantha’s grandfather). A man who blessed us personally in many tremendous ways.

Ken Arndt 1925-2019

While we’re still figuring out the details, it looks like Samantha might be flying to Alaska to attend the memorial service with Benaiah, and at the same time I’ll be flying to Virginia to take part in a wedding. Being first time parents, this is a new and terrifying prospect for us, so please pray for safe travels, sanity, and blessing over Samantha’s family as they celebrate the life of Ken Arndt.

Thank you so much for all of your love and support, we feel it. And words cannot express our thankfulness,

The McRae Family

Enjoy some cute pictures of Benaiah and family!

Help the McRaes raise funds for Bible training

Have you ever gone to open your Bible for a devotional and found yourself frozen, unsure of how to begin reading that foreign object? Have you ever made a goal to read through the entire Bible in a year… only to drop off somewhere around the “descriptions of tabernacle utensils” in Exodus? Do you ever wonder how Old Testament law, ancient Hebrew poetry, or parables from 2000 years ago could possibly apply to your life in a relevant way today? If so, then I’ll make a quick plug right here for you to consider joining us for our next School of Biblical Studies (https://emmausbibleministries.org/apply-overview)

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then I hope I can give you a little bit of insight into our passion for what we do. You see, three years ago, my answer to ALL of those questions was “yes!” Three years ago, I found myself in a place where I knew that my Bible was supposed to mean something to me and make a daily impact on my life, but it just didn’t! This eventually led my wife and I to pack up everything we owned and drive from Alaska to Florida in order to spend one year studying the Bible 40+ hours a week with Emmaus Bible Ministries.

Why am I telling you all this? Perhaps this is old news to you. Well, that one year of studying the Bible changed our lives forever. And for the last two years (and the foreseeable future!), Samantha and I have dedicated our lives to helping others experience this same life transformation by getting to know God through his Word.

This is our purpose, this is why we get up in the morning: helping others to know God through his word has been one of the greatest joys and privileges we have known in life. In fact, we just had the incredible opportunity to see our class of ’18-’19 graduate.

This is just one more group of world-changers, ready to live transformed lives and impact other lives through knowing God’s Word.

The epidemic of Bible illiteracy is something we work everyday to eradicate. No believer should live their life unsure of how to approach their Bible, or feeling intimidated by it’s contents. We strive to help others actually mean it when they recall Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.”

Here’s what I want to ask you. If this mission excites your heart and you want to actively contribute to helping others experience the Bible in an intimate and life-transforming way, then will you partner with us?

Samantha and I are in need of a significant increase to our monthly income. We want nothing more than to continue in our passion to fight the battle against Bible illiteracy. You can help us make this happen! If you feel God moving your heart to give, here is a link that will give you the necessary information for giving online or by mail: Click here to donate!

Here’s a testimonial video from some of our recent students

Thank you for all of your prayers and support. If you would like to talk with us further about how you can go deeper with your own Bible engagement, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we’d love to help! If you would like to schedule a meeting with us or hear more about what we do and how you can partner with us, let us know and we will try to make it happen over our summer travels (Alaska – June/Virginia – July).

Blessings from the McRaes

Teaching and Travel

Verse to consider:By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” – 1 John 4:13-15

Teaching
In the past month, I had the opportunity to teach a lecture on the book of 1 John. The writings of the Apostle John are unique in that they represent of a period of the New Testament church unlike any other books of the Bible. If we hold to the generally accepted dates for the writing of the other books of the New Testament, then the events that we see in John’s Gospel, 3 epistles, and Revelation take place 15+ years after the latest writings we have from Paul, and 50+ years since Jesus ascended! This means that we get a small glimpse into the progress and struggles of an established, early church community.

In 1 John, the apostle (now very old) is writing an intimate letter to the church community surrounding the region of Ephesus, often referring to his readers as “beloved” and “little children.” As 21st century readers, it’s often easy to remove ourselves from the situations we read about in the Bible, and yet we see John and the church community facing similar problems that our modern churches face today. What do we do when people are teaching a gospel contrary to what we’ve heard or read about? How should we feel or react when people leave the church community because of heresy? How do we know that we really know the truth about God when those who think contrary to what we’ve read claim the same thing? John addresses all of these things in this epistle.

For such a small book, John has much to say about all kinds of theological truths. He finds time to speak about the doctrines of God, sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, and Eschatology! John goes to great lengths to reassure his readers about the truths that they have received in very definitive statements (look out for repeated phrases like “by this we know…”). The heresies present in the church have produced a sort of elitism and lovelessness among the believers, and John’s message stresses the importance of fellowship, rooted in the person and example of Christ, who brings all believers into fellowship with each other and with the Father. If you’re looking for a book chockfull of creedal statements about who Jesus is and the core of Christian belief, read 1 John!


General Update/Travel Plans
As our final week of teaching comes to a close in our School of Biblical Studies, we’re gearing up for graduation and summer travel plans. As always, it’s been absolutely incredible to see the change in our students as they engage with the Bible on a whole new level. We’re so proud of their progress and the way that they have persevered to the end! One of the last things we do in our school is to give our students a lecture assignment, where they put their new skills into action and practice teaching a book!

(If you find yourself interested in knowing your Bible in an intimate way, please consider whether God is calling you, or maybe someone you know, to attend our school! It will change your life! You can find out more and apply here!) https://emmausbibleministries.org/

As for summer plans, Samantha and I will be traveling for the months of June and July in order to visit friends, family, and supporters, and also to attempt to raise more general support for our mission here. Beginning June  7th, we will be traveling to Homer, AK for around 3 weeks, and then we plan to visit Virginia in July for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. If you would like to visit with us, set up a support meeting, or book some kind of teaching, please contact us as soon as possible so we can be sure to plan accordingly!

Prayer Requests
– As we plan for our summer travels, we are of course anxious about any sort of travel that involves an infant, please pray for our safety and sanity.
– As this semester ends, we’re praying for the future of our current students, and we’re also praying for our new students-to-be. We also will have some changes coming to our school which will require some transitioning. Please pray for us as we work to develop the best Bible equipping ministry we can!
– We’re also coming to the end of our current lease with our apartment. There are multiple factors to consider as we think about our future living situation, our family needs, and our current support income. Please pray for guidance and the needed increase in our support.

If you would like to donate towards our family and our work with Emmaus Bible Ministries, click here to reach our donate page.

Blessings!
– Jacob, Samantha, and Benaiah

Learning from the Letters of Paul

Verse to consider:Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose in grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” – 2 Timothy 1:8-9

School of Biblical Studies
Over the past month with Emmaus Ministries, I (Jacob) had the privilege of teaching two of the three Pastoral Epistles (Titus and 2 Timothy) for the students in our School of Biblical Studies. These books are unique in their personal tone and depth of emotion, given that they are most likely the final three epistles that the apostle Paul writes before he is martyred in Rome. There were two things in particular that were emphasized for me while studying for these books: living a life that is not only rooted in sound doctrine but shown through right actions, and living life with an eternal perspective.

In the book of Titus, Paul is addressing two specific problem groups within the church of Crete: the Cretans themselves who are known for their incredibly bad reputation, and the seemingly well-intentioned Judaizers who are trying to fix the Cretans by forcing them to obey Jewish ceremonial laws in order to be right before God. Both groups are attacking the gift of grace in their own way. The Cretans have used the freedom found in Christ as a license for every type of undisciplined act, while the Judaizers have formed a list of rules to be kept in order to achieve salvation. But Paul stresses for Titus to teach the church that there is an inseparable link between both sound doctrine AND good works!

2nd Timothy is deeply emotional as we see Paul is in prison, writing what is likely his last epistle before he dies. Paul writes to his spiritual son, Timothy, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come…” But Paul doesn’t end his letter on this somber note. Instead, he forces Timothy to reorient his gaze upon Jesus, the one who has not only conquered death, but “has brought life and immortality to light through this gospel…” In class, we had an object illustration to show the breadth of eternity, in contrast to the brief life we are in, forcing us to ask how much of our life is being lived for the sake of our present circumstances rather than the hope of eternal life in Jesus.

(The paper represented eternity, versus the minuscule dot drawn on the paper to represent the span of our life.)

As we finished our study of Paul’s epistles, I was forced to reconcile with the call Paul placed on all of our lives: Share in the suffering. He compares this call to the life of an athlete who trains hard and unceasingly for a race. A race that is long and filled with mountains and rough terrain, but a race that is run for the sake of the finish line. Too often the trials along the way seem insurmountable, but in light of an eternal perspective, their weight doesn’t even register on the scale. And yet God still seeks and comforts those who are in pain. Hallelujah!
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General Happenings
Thank you for you’re continued interest and support in this ministry that God has called our family into. Here are some other short updates on what’s been going on:
MOrgan teachingAs a testament to the work God is doing through Emmaus Ministries, here is a picture of our co-worker, who recently gave her first lecture in our school after having previously been a student. And not just any student, but an introverted student who had sworn off public speaking in any form all together! But God worked in her heart through this school and called her into action in a way that she couldn’t ignore. What a blessing it is to witness God at work!
stephen teachingHere is a not so great picture of another co-worker who was previously a student of Emmaus Ministries and has now been invited to speak and give sermons at local churches thanks to his Bible training. For those unaware, the core of Emmaus Ministries’ mission is to equip the local body of Christ, this is just one of the many ways we have been able to do so.

The conference center where our campus is located has recently appointed a new director, here’s a picture of us working to help partner with them in beautifying the grounds and support those who have been such an awesome support to us. “Authentic Relationships” is another one of Emmaus Ministries’ core values, so we volunteer work hours on a weekly basis for our campus friends.

Prayer Requests
We have many general prayer requests regarding health and wellness. A number of our teaching staff have been subject to a a bad flu going around. We also have family members who would greatly appreciate your prayers concerning the health of current babies and babies that are yet to come. And for that matter, we’d love prayer for the health of our own baby, Benaiah. 🙂

Most pressing on our minds is our need for increased financial support. Since our last update asking for more support, we were thankfully blessed with some additional giving. Thank you to those who have given! But our need is still very present. If you would like to see our work to help train others to know their Bible continue, we would ask for you to consider becoming a regular financial partner. If you are interested in becoming a one-time or recurring donor, click this link and follow the instructions given. Of course, we would love to answer any question you may have about our work or the giving process. To reach us, please reference our “contact us” tab above.

For cute pictures of Benaiah, read on. 🙂

Thanks and blessings!
-The McRae Family

We introduced Benaiah to the ocean, he was not impressed…

Benaiah also likes to hang out in our School of Biblical Studies class.

But his favorite days are when he gets to hang out at home with mom.

A Call to Thankfulness and Prayer

Verse to Consider: 2 Corinthians 2:14-15
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”

Greetings
Hello new and faithful readers!  We apologize for the late update. We broke our agreement to give an update every month, seeing that it has now been about 2 since our last post. Given the craziness of travel and the Christmas holiday, I pray you will forgive us. 🙂

Thankfulness
Concerning the title of this blog post, I will first say that these past few months have served as a personal reminder of all we have to give thanks for:

For our beautiful son, Benaiah who has been both the greatest trial and greatest joy of our lives. (He’s doing awesome by the way).

For the ability to see family and celebrate our Savior together over Christmas.

We’re thankful for being able to take part in the marriage of one of our staff members and friends. And also for the addition of two new and amazing staff members, welcome Kristi Marsh and Morgan Phaneuf! (Pictures in that order.)

We’re thankful for the gift of serving in a community of dedicated Jesus followers, and to see God actively working through the teaching of His Word. (One of the ways we were especially blessed this semester was through having Dr. Joseph Okello give us a special lecture on the book of Job, thanks to our friendship with Asbury Theological Seminary. So awesome!)

I also had the awesome opportunity to teach through the book of Ecclesiastes, what a beautiful heart-wrencher!

eccl. teaching

We started our New Testament semester in January and it has been so exciting! Our students are amazing and it’s been so refreshing to walk with them through the Gospels and the book of Acts, which we’re studying currently. As we look at the first new covenant believers, the missional journeys of the apostle Paul, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I’ve been struck with the depth of significance the gospel carried for these people and the cost that came with it.

Where the Jews looked for a conquering king that would lead them into glorious victory against the Roman oppressors, they found a suffering servant-king. When they looked for a God that demanded perfection, they found only grace and a love for all people. In the beginning of Acts, this starting group of 120, imperfect, followers in Jerusalem explodes in a way that it has no business doing throughout the books of Acts. We see thousands of people flock to the message of grace, giving everything they hold dear in this life just to know this man named Jesus: the unclean Roman gentile, the sick and lame, the rich and powerful, and even a murdering persecutor like Saul.

I’m so thankful to know this Jesus. I’m so thankful that the gospel is for each and every person, no matter where they’re at in life. And we’re so thankful that our job everyday is to study and teach others about this man Jesus, through His words. Lastly, we’re thankful for you! If you are reading this, you are important to us and have been a tremendous encouragement to our souls in this mission of ours. Whether you have given to us financially, prayed for us faithfully, or simply invited us over for a meal, you have allowed us to pursue our dream. For this, we are so grateful.

A Call to Prayer
And this leads us to our call to prayer. Over the course of the last year, we have been unable to increase our monthly income to a sustainable place, and if something doesn’t change soon, it will no longer be possible for us to continue our work here. We truly believe that God has called us to help others know and experience the Bible in a life-transforming way. We are praying that God will establish this calling on our lives through an increase in His provision! That being said, we wanted to ask you, all of our supporters, to join us in prayer as we seek God in this need.

In order for our family to work full time in this ministry and live a healthy lifestyle, we need our total monthly income to reach a minimum of $3000. We are currently living off half of this. Please pray that God would bring us the necessary donors to help us reach our goal. We also ask for your prayers to help us continue living faithfully with the calling God has placed on our lives.

If you would like to become a financial partner in this mission, please click here! to reach our donate page.  If you’re new to this blog or our mission, we’d love to tell you all about it. You can find our information on our “Contact Us” page above, or click here! to read more about Emmaus Ministries.

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Thank you all for your love and support,
– The McRae Family