Fruitful

The school I teach at offers a rather rigorous academic program. It is by no means a perfect program, but it definitely pushes the students to think for themselves (as opposed to thinking for a test). Aside from the senior thesis defenses, and the junior apprenticeship projects, I don’t shirk from asking my students to engage with what they’re learning. In my Church History class, for instance, they’ve been assigned a research paper connecting an event from what we’ve studied with a concern in the Church today. One of my students did his paper on styles of worship, comparing Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. Here’s a little excerpt:

…I would like to believe they would have agreed to disagree. I believe that if we are mature in our faith, petty things like style preference in worship should not come between us especially considering we are called “brothers and sisters in Christ.” If there is a superior worship style it is irrelevant because the only thing that matters is the worship itself offered to the One who is superior.

Papers like this make me very proud of my students. Its not an issue of agreement (because I agree with some students, and I disagree with others), but it is about taking the subject matter and understanding that it is more than a text book or a set of notes. The moments where the classroom encounters real life are the moments where I feel fruitful, in the truest sense of the word.

They have so much potential for God to unlock, that it is often times surprising. Whether they know it or not, I expect great things from each of my students this year.

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Reading Genesis

I encourage you to watch the powerpoint presentation above, filling out this handout as you watch, BEFORE you read this post.

This week we looked at how important it is to ask ourselves, “how am I supposed to read this?”

I don’t read an engine manual the same way I read a Stephen King novel, and rightfully so. Neither do I read a Robert Frost poem as though it were an article from the NY Times. Everyday we exercise our judgment regarding how  we read something, yet often the Church uses this notion selectively when applying it to the Bible.

Throughout Church history, different groups have said, “you should read X passage metaphorically because we believe Y,” (feel free to insert any other form of reading in place of metaphorically). We, as a people, tend to want to read the Bible a certain way to prove a certain point (this is ironic since often this is the accusation hurled at scientists by the same people). This is something we must move beyond.

I’m not saying that the Church has always been wrong (I, for instance, take Jesus literally when he says “no man may come to the Father but by me”), but we have to be willing to have our lives rearranged according to God’s purposes.

I encourage you, over the next couple of days, read Genesis 1-11 and ask yourself this question: “what is the Bible teaching me about who God is?” I think this is a far more valuable question than, “does this prove or disprove my scientific theory?”

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Worship and Sex?

Last night, a friend of mine sent me an essay of his. In it, he compares worship to a sexual relationship. There is a right context for enjoyment, and there is a wrong one. He goes on to compare the way many Christians come to worship as an extramarital affair. He writes,

…some Christians seem to have only an emotional relationship with God, based on how they feel about God in general, and largely dependent on the worship band on Sunday mornings. You see a faith that is dependent on what we call worship music and moving inspirational speeches is a faith that becomes compartmentalized into one kind of person during a worship set, and a completely different person the rest of the time. In some sense (if you will allow me) these people metaphorically have “sex” with God during “worship” but have no relationship with Him independent of their encounter with Him on Sunday, and maybe sometime mid-week if they can make time for that…

If we aren’t engaged in the right relationship with God, we’re turning worship into something sensual and selfish. Right? Were I to only seek sex from my wife, I would be thought of as a villain who abuses my wife’s body. That assessment wouldn’t be too far from accurate either. Paul was pretty clear how husbands and wives should interact. Yet we don’t often connect our worship of God (a time when we seek to enter into a right relationship with our Lord) with much else. We treat worship like a one night stand, and this has become the standard.

I think my friend is on to something, but neither of us have concentrated on it enough to formulate something more substantial.

Of course, who is to say that I’m on the right path here? There is a whole host of evidence from the past 100 years or so that worship is being carried out exactly as it should be. New churches don’t offer new ways to worship, they simply affirm the old ways in a “contemporary” manner. And if these recent traditions argue against what I’m saying, then perhaps I’m wrong. But for now, my conscience tells me something is violently wrong with the way we Christians approach worship. Something must be done. So here I stand, seeking and hoping for more.

Is Biblical Illiteracy really the Church's Dirty Little Secret?

San Antonio, Texas, Pastor Randy Frazee says a recent study revealing how little Christians know about their own faith, let alone other faiths, is good news.

"It’s a good wake-up call for us. It brings to light one of the challenges for the contemporary Christian church," the senior minister of Oak Hills Church explained…

You can read more about Pastor Frazee’s response to the survey I posted about previously by going here.

But I need to state that I disagree with him. Perhaps he and I would fuss over word choice, but I think the recent survey showing that Christians know little about the Bible and the God who inspired it is a very bad thing. This isn’t a contemporary problem either. This is the very thing Luther and Tyndale tried to overcome. But clearly, the problem remains.

I also don’t think its any secret that Christians in America know little about their faith. It’s probably a worldwide epidemic, but I’m only familiar with the American strain. It’s embarrassing and heartbreaking, but not a secret.

This, of course, brings me back to opening a Bible school. It’s my hope to one day open a Bible school on the Emerald Coast of Florida, to serve as a place where laymen and women can devote themselves to a one year program of study that presents them with the Bible and encourages them to draw close to God.

I think we have to start with the basics, namely, Jesus the Christ. I think our Lord’s words provide a special clue to this:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Its important to note that He didn’t say “All authority has been given to My Words (or the Bible or the Scriptures or any other variant therein).” Authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth, and without that authority the Bible is just another book. Learning about the Bible without encountering God is hollow. That’s the crux of a Bible school: Encountering God through His Word.

Is there really anything else?