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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rustler Article for 3.31.11

I’ve become interested in Biblical literacy lately as a part of my dissertation, and have been thinking about just how much Bible the people in our churches know. There has been an assumption, at least since World War Two, that people today don’t need to be taught the stories of the Bible; they have been so saturated by those narratives at home and in culture that to preach or teach on the basics of Scripture would be boring and redundant.
Thanks to some brave and helpful friends I’ve lately learned that we can assume no such thing about the people in our churches. Biblical literacy, something that I consider a necessity for a disciple of Jesus Christ, has fallen on such hard times that many can’t even identify the four Gospels in the New Testament! Add to this the plethora of books and broadcasts that present themselves as “biblical” and we wind up with a gaggle of would-be disciples who know less than their parents did about the very basics of our faith!
We must address Biblical literacy in our homes, and if not there, in our churches. It is the lack of Biblical knowledge in our congregations that has convinced me of the importance of Sunday night and Wednesday night Bible studies when many churches have let such events fall from their weekly schedules. It is important that we know the Word of God so that we may hear and obey what he says. Shame on us if we rant and rave about the godlessness of our culture or un-Christian principles of a person or organization without knowing the Bible first.

Rustler Article for 3.24.11

I think Paul was something of an amateur athlete. I know, there is little evidence to speak of Paul’s personal life other than his Jewish upbringing and education, but there certainly is a lot of athletic language in his letters to the churches. Maybe Paul was a runner or a swimmer; perhaps after a long day of persecuting the Church or preaching the Gospel he did some first-century Zumba to blow off steam.
In Philippians 3 Paul uses an athletic metaphor in the midst of an autobiographical section of the letter. He laments that he has not yet arrived at the goal of faith and considers the things in his past as rubbish compared to the glory of Jesus Christ to which he has been called to proclaim.
Let’s consider this by way of a modern-day athletics story. Diane Van Deren, an active, athletic woman now in her 50’s, understands more than most what it means to “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead,” as Paul says. As a result of epilepsy, Diane has had a portion of brain removed. The consequence of the surgery is that she no longer has an awareness of time. She can be running for hours and hours and think only a few minutes have passed by. She has won many super marathon races because of this unique condition, and is in the best shape of her life.
I wonder – just how much would we really strive toward God’s calling on our lives in Christ Jesus if we were better at forgetting? If only we had the spiritual discipline to give our lives, yes, even our pasts to God and train our souls to the race that he has set us on!

Rustler Article for 3.10.11

I’ve seen a lot of famous people (mostly athletes) with the words “only God can judge me” tattooed on their bodies in various places. Though this sentiment at least partially based on Scripture, it is more indicative of an attitude our culture has developed regarding one another’s sins.
There is an attitude among us that has been “baptized” by Christians suggesting that we cannot render any moral judgment on anyone’s behavior, thus rendering morality to the purely personal level. Certainly we know the maxim “if it feels good, do it!” Our society doesn’t want moral judgments from anyone so that we can get away with anything.
Most often we hear passages cited against “judging” one another from the Gospels (Matthew 7, Luke 6) and from the letters of Paul (1 Corinthians 4, Romans 14). We cower behind the idea that judgment means condemnation of someone’s actions, and so we let all sorts of evil go unchecked in our homes, churches, and communities.
I don’t think anyone would argue that Paul was not a judgmental fellow (Romans 1); the same could be said about Jesus (Mark 7, Matthew 18). The point of the “judgment” language has more to do with rendering a final verdict on the worth (or eternal destination) of a person, not with their specific moral behavior.
The point is this: Christians must be able to judge moral action against the standards of God’s expectations for humanity. We must be able to name sin as sin. However, we must at the same time not fall into the temptation of “deciding” who is saved and who is eternally damned based upon their behavior. Let God be God and decide the fate of a person; however we must not abdicate our responsibility to “build one another up,” to “correct, rebuke” and to preach repentance with our lives, deeds, and words.