Posts in Students
Why the Pentateuch is Important

(We are currently taking the students through the first 5 books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. I originally posted this on my personal blog a couple of years ago. Today I'm finding it is just as relevant and real as it was when I originally wrote it.)

Every year we go through the Pentateuch.
Every year I watch God create something out of nothing.
Every year I listen as He chooses a nation to be His own.
Every year I read the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.

And every year, through their stories, I’m reminded of who God is, because revelation of  His character is the point of their lives.

It’s amazing how quickly, how easily I forget. It’s incredible that I can go through these stories, and one month, one week, one day, or even one hour later…I forget. I doubt. I lose sight of the goal, of the One who makes the world go ’round.

Throughout the Pentateuch, what I see is consistent. God chooses, God saves, God makes the impossible possible, and the people mess up. They forget, over and over again all that He has done, all that He has promised, all that they have seen and heard. They choose to believe in their own strength rather than the power and supremacy of God.

And yet…God remains true to who He is. He is faithful to an unfaithful people. He accomplishes and fulfills the purposes and promises He has set.

Not because the people deserved it.
Not because they always believed Him.
Not because the people were good.

God does this because He loves His people. He is not obligated, He is not bound to them, He doesn’t need them.

But He loves them.

Love, when stemming from the One who defines it, changes the way life is lived. It’s no longer lived with “me” at the center, but with “Him” and “they” as the focus. Love takes doubt and smashes it against the foundation of the great I AM. The great I AM cannot be boxed in, cannot ever be fully described or fully known, and yet is ever the same. Love destroys hate, defeats death, casts out fear, and dies for the loved.

And yet I forget all this. So easily. So often. So completely. In the moments, days, and weeks when I’m not feeling well and I start to act like the Grinch, or I feel overwhelmed and start running around like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, or I feel as though my life has no meaning and become the Eeyore who sees nothing but gloom and doom – in these times I forget the Gospel. I forget what God has done in the stories of the lives of the people in the Bible I study every day. I forget the faithfulness that God has shown in my life.

And that’s what the Pentateuch does for me. It’s one of many reasons it’s so important to study, to know, to love. The command to remember.

Remember who God is: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Remember what He’s like: How did He treat the people He chose?
Remember what He’s done: What did He do in their lives?

And finally, what has He done for me?

A life filled with joy is a life filled with Jesus and remembering all that He’s done with and for me. It’s a life that knows, in the words of JJ Heller, “what love really means”.

Remember Love.

Stephen Ray: God Has Declared Me, "Not Guilty"

2,000 years ago a man stood condemned in the Roman courts. This man claimed to be the living God, sent to earth to save humanity from sin and death. The penalty for his crime: death. The police tape had been taken down, the detectives had gone home, and the case was closed. Had they known the man was truly innocent, that the jury had been paid off from the start, they might have let him live. Unlike most dead men though, this one didn't stay dead. He rose! Suddenly sons and daughters began to prophesy, young men had visions, older men dreamed dreams, and the word of this Jesus Christ spread throughout the whole world.

Now, the case has been reopened, and you are left to answer the question: what happened?

My name is Stephen Ray. I am a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication. I have been a student here at Emmaus for 3 months now. As a detective of Scripture it has been an incredible journey to see God’s hand through the pages of Scripture as well as in my own life. I grew up in the small town of Holly, MI. My Father has been a camp pastor of multiple camps all of my life. As a child I grew up traveling the country with my father watching him lead thousands of youth to Christ. As a child, when people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would respond with, “what my papa does”.

During the summers I found myself working at Camp Lurecrest in Lake Lure, NC. While working there the assistant camp director, David Butts, took me under his wing as a mentor. Knowing my heart for ministry and leadership, David told me over and over again, “Stephen, you've got to know your bible”. Camp Lurecrest was the current location of ESBS, and over the years I built a relationship with Tom Philips, and I knew years ago that I needed to come to this school.

Here at the school we take on the role of a detective. Using the Inductive Bible Study method, we try to get back into the first century mindset so that we can get a full understanding of the text. We watch the police tape and reopen the case. One of my biggest frustrations was leaving the first few cases, Philemon, Philippians, and Ephesians feeling like I

couldn't

know every detail. It took a while to realize that I

wouldn't

leave every case with having memorized every detail. I realized this when one of our teachers told us that this year we are here only to start the investigation, these cases will have to be revisited in the years to come.

While being a detective of the gospel, the most eye opening discovery happened in the case that I’d forgotten about. All throughout the New Testament we see that those who believe in Jesus are called righteous. To be righteous before God means that in the courts of heaven you have been legally declared, “not guilty”. Not only have those who believed in Christ been declared, “not guilty”, but we have been given the very righteousness of Christ. As I have spent more time learning the Bible I see more how God views me.

I thought I was coming here to investigate the case closed 2,000 years ago. I did. But in reality, I came to solve the case of my own heart. As for that one, the verdict is in: Not Guilty.