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!

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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

Thanksgiving, Road Hazards, and Sickness!

Daniel 7:14 “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Greetings
Hello friends, family, and other readers! We wish you a late Thanksgiving and an early Merry Christmas. DSC_8205.jpg

What’s New?
The month that has passed since our last update has been one of great highs and great lows! We started off right with a wonderful Thanksgiving visit to family in Virginia. For the first time in quite a while, my (Jacob) siblings and I were able to gather together with our families under our parents’ roof, along with other wonderful family members. And one of the greatest joys was being able to introduce our new son to his extended family. 🙂 It was truly a time where we saw our blessings before us in every moment.

 

Sadly, we could only visit for a short while. I was due to teach the book of Daniel the very first day that our students’ break was over. Miraculously, Benaiah handled the 14+ hour car trips, to and from Virginia, much better than we had ever hoped or dreamed, and they were made with minimal loss of sanity. Until…

 

We were met with unexpected misfortune about 5 hours from home, when we ran over an unidentified metal object. Thankfully, we were kept safe and saw our tire going flat when we were already stopped on the side of the road (Praise God!). We ended up needing to spend the night in Georgia, but thankfully we had left a day early, and we made it back in time for me to teach my two classes on Daniel.

 

Getting ready to teach the book of Daniel was easily the most trying process of preparation I’ve ever experienced while teaching for Emmaus, and was probably just as draining on Samantha as it was on myself. And yet, Daniel quickly became one of my (if not my absolute!) favorite books of the Bible. There are many opinions and endless debates over details within the book of Daniel, but one of the lessons I learned while studying was to not let the details overshadow the message, and there is a wonderful message in this book. The story of Daniel’s life takes place during exile of Judah into Babylonian hands. While this exiled people are looking for hope and answers in the midst of their ruin, God’s sovereignty is stamped on every page of that book as a salve to their wounded hearts and broken dreams. Daniel witnesses the rise and fall of multiple kings and nations throughout his lifetime, including his own, which leaves him and the remnant of Israel with a looming question: Which kingdom can we place our hope and trust in? The answer presents itself most clearly in Ch. 7, where Daniel witnesses an everlasting kingdom and dominion being given to the Son of Man and his people, the saints, while even the most imposing and terrible kingdoms of the earth fall hopelessly short.

I’d gladly go on, but I can feel your attention waning. 😉 Suffice it to say that I loved this book and it was a privilege to teach! And never did we need the message more than this past month!

We followed this class with some Christmas decorating and other shenanigans with our students.
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Alas, our troubles didn’t end with the flat tire. The next day, Benaiah (who was already exhibiting some cold symptoms) began to develop a terrible cough and difficulty breathing. Over that night and the next, we made 3 visits to the ER and ended up having Benaiah admitted into the children’s hospital with a bad case of RSV (respiratory virus).

 

What we had hoped would be an overnight stay turned into 5 days at the hospital, due to Benaiah’s continued labored breathing. Thankfully, Benaiah’s life never seems to be in great danger, it simply turned into a long and uncomfortable road to recovery. On the 5th day, we were able to come home again. And while Benaiah is still on the mend, he’s doing much better! And he also got a special visit from Nona (grandma) out of it 🙂

 

Thank you everyone for your prayers! We’re so grateful!

Prayer Requests:
Family: We continue to ask for prayers over our family members whose child is experiencing very rare and terrible medical conditions. Samantha’s eldest brother and his wife (Jamie and Courtney) have a beautiful 5 month old daughter named Ellie who has been facing seeing/hearing impairment along with severe seizures. Please pray for Ellie’s conditions to improve and overall encouragement for them as a family.
Travel: Because we’re gluttons for punishment, we’re driving to Virginia again over Christmas break in just two weeks. Please pray for our safe travel and no flat tires this time 🙂
Finances: While Samantha and I are loving the new apartment we’ve been blessed to receive, it has definitely increased our need for further financial support. We’ve been able to make ends meet by working additional hours outside of our work at Emmaus, but it would relieve much stress and pressure to be able to focus all of our attention on what we believe God has called us to here at Emmaus Ministries. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, we’d love the opportunity to share more about our mission and ministry with you! If you’re interested in making a donation, click here! Thank you!

– The McRae Family

 

Baby Days/Back in the Swing of Things

Verse to Consider: Micah 6:8,
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Where we left off…
It’s been quite some time since our last update. If you happened to read our last blog, then you’ll know that we took a temporary hiatus while we awaited the birth of our baby. Thank you for your patience! We’re overjoyed to announce that on September 8th, 2018, our lives were blessed by the arrival of Benaiah Reuben McRae:

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We’re in love. Samantha was a champ and gave birth after 12 hours of active labor. There were no complications and Benaiah has been a healthy boy since, praise the Lord! For all the prayers and the help we’ve received along the way, we are truly grateful. Thank you.

The following weeks
A few days before Samantha gave birth, we had just moved our belongings into our new apartment. We were fortunate enough to have family come and visit for the birth and stay to help us with the baby and get things unpacked in our new home. Just 6 days after Benaiah was born, Samantha and I celebrated our 5th anniversary (Woohoo!). And after 5 years of sharing space with others in one form or another, it’s truly a wonderful thing to finally have a space we can call our own 🙂

It’s probably unnecessary for me to say that the following weeks were filled with many new experiences and very little sleep. And yet, Samantha and I were faced with another challenge. Samantha’s sister was due to be married just one month after Benaiah was born, and so we made the tough decision to take our month old baby on a week long trip to Alaska. Fortunately, we had a lot of people praying for us and received plenty of good traveling advice and God definitely covered us in grace. Benaiah slept almost the entire 16 hours of flight!

The wedding was spectacular and we had a blast seeing all of our Alaska friends and family!

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Unfortunately, our trip didn’t exactly end on a high note. During the last few days of our travels, I (Jacob) caught a cold and on our (4) plane rides back to Florida, my cold turned into a painful ear infection. To make matters worse, I was scheduled to step back into my role with Emmaus and teach a lecture on the book of Micah shortly after getting back. I promptly visited a clinic upon our return, and a couple pill prescriptions and 3 shots on the butt later, I was well enough to give my lecture.
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The Present…
Now that we’re home again, Samantha and I have been working to find some semblance of a rhythm in life. Samantha is still taking it easy (not that it’s easy) and is doing what work she can for Emmaus at home, while I return to my normal teaching duties. It’s definitely been a strange experience figuring out what parts of our old routines no longer fit our current circumstances. Despite this, it’s hard to express the amount of joy that has come with getting to know Benaiah, and even harder to imagine how we ever lived without him.

Concerning Emmaus, we are continuing to work our way through the Old Testament Prophets with our students, having just finished our first class on the book of Isaiah. I absolutely love this portion of Scripture! The fact that we have these incredible accounts of God dialoguing directly with man for the purposes of pursuing his people with love and mercy is incredibly special. Emotive and provocative, the Old Testament Prophets express the depths of sin and depravity, while highlighting the glorious heights of God’s love in ways that are unseen in any other works of literature. It’s been an absolute joy and privilege to spend my recent days studying and teaching from these books. Having recently given my lecture on Micah, I’m currently preparing my next two lectures on the book of Daniel. This will be my first time giving 6 hours worth of lecture on a single book, so I would greatly appreciate your prayers!

We wanted to give you, our supporters, an idea of how this school is impacting our students, so here is a short video we shot of one of our students, asking them a few questions about what they’ve learned with Emmaus.

Prayer Requests…
– The foremost on our minds is a family member who is suffering from serious and unexpected medical conditions. It’s been an incredibly rough time for them and has weighed very heavily on the hearts of those around them. Please pray for healing, comfort, and guidance.
– Samantha and I recently took our car in for some necessary repairs, and it has put a very large strain on our finances.
– We’ve decided to push our luck and make another long journey with our baby 🙂 please pray as we make a 12+ hour drive over Thanksgiving holiday.
– Please continue to pray for Samantha and I as try to figure out this parenting thing while we jump back into managing our jobs and schedules.