• The Psalms & Diet Coke

    The Psalms & Diet Coke

    I love Diet Coke. I used to be addicted to it, until I decided to just go back to less frequent and less copious amounts of my first love – sweet tea (decisions of adulthood, another post for another time…). But sometimes in the sweltering Statesboro heat, all I really wanna do is curl up on a couch on the 4th floor of the library and take a nap – instead I decide that I need some cold caffeine and go get a Diet Coke.

    Not too long ago, this happened. I didn’t finish it, but took it home. Where my 4 year old son was very eager to have what daddy was drinking. So I let him take a sip. What did he think? “Mmm, I like that. It’s spicy!”

    Is Diet Coke spicy? Of course not, it's sweet nectar! It’s not that my 4 year old son doesn’t know what spicy is, it’s that he doesn’t possess the vocabulary or voice to express what he’s experiencing.

    Often times, we as adults and particularly as Christians, don’t possess the vocabulary or voice to express what we’re experiencing.

    Enter the Psalms.

    In the Psalms we have Jesus’s songbook, the songs that God’s people have sung through ages past. And as this amazing video testifies, music is an incredibly powerful thing!

    The Psalms are our guide…

       for worship;

       for who Jesus is and what he’s done;

       for discipleship – what it means to follow Jesus in a fallen world;

       for our spiritual and emotional formation;

       for prayer – how to cry out to God in joy, sadness, anger, anxiety, gratitude, loneliness, & depression.

    The Psalms help us to know ourselves, and they point us to Jesus. Check out these two quotes:

    “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God. Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”  John Calvin

    “Most of the scriptures speak to us, the Psalms speak for us.” – Athanasius

     

    Want a better understanding of God? Yourself? Your depression, anxiety, loneliness, grief, anger?

    Is one of your New Years Resolutions in 2016 to cultivate a stronger devotion to God and the Bible?

    Want to be pointed to Jesus over and over again?

    Join us on Wednesday nights at 8:30 this semester for our series "The Psalms: Soul Music" to see Jesus, to gain a vocabulary and a voice to express what you’re experiencing, and to cultivate a devotion to God. We meet in the Arts Building Auditorium, and regardless of your beliefs we would love for you to join us and invite a friend.

  • The Gospel of John & The Office

    I have a confession. I love Netflix. A lot. We, along with many others, have shows that we watch through. So far my favorite show on Netflix is Parks & Rec – amazing. And because of our love of Parks & Rec, we gave The Office a try. And both loved it – it has, in my opinion, one of the best endings of a series.

    My sister-in-law and her husband (thanks Molly & Vinnie!) recently reminded me of scene from an episode in the 7th season called “Christening” about Jim & Pam’s daughter getting christened (baptized) at church. And the manager of Dunder-Mifflin where they work, Michael Scott, required their co-workers to go. So lots of funny things happen – like Dwight trying to sell printers as a prayer request while offering a 4% discount (no Christians have ever used prayer quests for their own personal gain or as an opportunity to boast, right? J), or Michael and Andy hopping on a bus to Mexico then 45 minutes down the road they realize they have no idea what they’re doing, and call Erin to come pick them up. But Toby, human resources guy Toby, has a small but helpful role in this episode. It shows him throughout the episode trying to muster up the courage to go in the sanctuary, and after the service is over he finally goes in walks up to the statue of the crucified Jesus and says “Why do you have to be so mean to me?” Toby experienced mean-ness from everybody else, so his experiences of life led him to believe that the real Jesus is also just a big meany. Toby didn’t have any clue as to what the Bible says Jesus is really about.

    There are many voices out there ready to tell who Jesus is – just a good guy, a interesting teacher, a myth, a prophet, a wish-granting god, and many other things. But maybe the most persuasive voice of Jesus’s identity is our own experiences. Like it was for Toby. Toby received mean-ness from everybody so his experience led him to believe Jesus was mean too. Our experiences – like the shame of not being good enough or not measuring up, or past rejection – often lead us to believe lies about Jesus, that he would treat us the same way.

    This semester in RUF at our Wednesday night meetings, we’re going to look at the gospel of John to look for the answer to the question, who is the real Jesus? One Bible scholar said this about John’s gospel: “The first three gospels show Christ’s body, the gospel of John shows Christ’s soul.” This semester we will be looking at the heart & soul of Jesus to let what his word says about him shape what we believe about him.

    RUF meets in the Arts Building Auditorium (room 2071) on Wednesday nights at 8:30. Whether you are an "on-fire" Christian, a struggling Christian, or curious about Christianity, we would love for you to join us and invite a friend to come with you.

    love God. love others. love Southern.

  • Gospel & Acts in a Semester

    (from August 2013)

    If you’ve never read the Bible, haven’t picked it up in a while, or (like many) never know exactly where to begin, here is a reading schedule that will take you through the first five books of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John & Acts – in a single semester. You’ll notice that some readings are out of order, because on days that RUF meets we’ll be reading the passage that Ro will speak on that night. You’ll also notice that this schedule is only about 1 chapter each day. Remember, it’s not how much you read, it’s how the Lord applies it to your heart. I recommend before you read it, that you ask that He would do just that.

     

    8/22               Matthew 5:1-10

    8/23               John 1

    8/24               John 2

    8/25               John 3

    8/26               John 4

    8/27               John 5

    8/28               Matthew 5:10-16

    8/29               John 6

    8/30               John 7

    8/31               John 8

    9/1                 John 9

    9/2                 John 9

    9/3                 John 10

    9/4                 Matthew 5:17-20

    9/5                 John 11

    9/6                 John 12

    9/7                 John 13

    9/8                 John 14

    9/9                 John 15

    9/10               John 16

    9/11               Matthew 5:21-26

    9/12               John 17

    9/13               John 18

    9/14               John 19

    9/15               John 20

    9/16               John 21

    9/17               Catch-up Day

    9/18               Matthew 5:27-30

    9/19               Matthew 1

    9/20               Matthew 2

    9/21               Matthew 3

    9/22               Matthew 4

    9/23               Matthew 5

    9/24               Matthew 6

    9/25               Matthew 5:31-37

    9/26               Matthew 7

    9/27               Matthew 8

    9/28               Matthew 9

    9/29               Matthew 10

    9/30               Matthew 11

    10/1               Matthew 12

    10/2               Matthew 5:38-48

    10/3               Matthew 13

    10/4               Matthew 14

    10/5               Matthew 15

    10/6               Matthew 16

    10/7               Matthew 17

    10/8               Matthew 18

    10/9               Matthew 6:1-18

    10/10             Matthew 19

    10/11             Matthew 20

    10/12             Matthew 21

    10/13             Matthew 22

    10/14             Matthew 23

    10/15             Matthew 24

    10/16             Matthew 25

    10/17             Matthew 26

    10/18             Matthew 27

    10/19             Matthew 28

    10/20             Catch-up Day

    10/21             Mark 1

    10/22             Mark 2

    10/23             Matthew 6:6-14

    10/24             Mark 3

    10/25             Mark 4

    10/26             Mark 5

    10/27             Mark 6

    10/28             Mark 7

    10/29             Mark 8

    10/30             Matthew 6:19-34

    10/31             Mark 9

    11/1               Mark 10

    11/2               Mark 11

    11/3               Mark 12

    11/4               Mark 13

    11/5               Mark 14

    11/6               Matthew 7:1-12

    11/7               Mark 15

    11/8               Mark 16

    11/9               Catch-up Day

    11/10             Luke 1:1-38

    11/11             Luke 1:39-80

    11/12             Luke 2

    11/13             Matthew 7:13-20

    11/14             Luke 3

    11/15             Luke 4

    11/16             Luke 5

    11/17             Luke 6

    11/18             Luke 7

    11/19             Luke 8

    11/20             Matthew 7:21-27

    11/21             Luke 9

    11/22             Luke 10

    11/23             Luke 11

    11/24             Luke 12

    11/25             Luke 13

    11/26             Luke 14

    11/27             Luke 15

    11/28             Luke 16

    11/29             Luke 17

    11/30             Luke 18

    12/1               Luke 19

    12/2               Luke 20

    12/3               Luke 21

    12/4               Isaiah 7

    12/5               Luke 22

    12/6               Luke 23

    *12/7             Luke 24

    12/8               Catch-up Day

    12/9               Acts 1

    12/10             Acts 2

    12/11             Acts 3

    12/12             Acts 4

    12/13             Acts 5

    12/14             Acts 6-7

    12/15             Acts 8

    12/16             Acts 9

    12/17             Acts 10

    12/18             Acts 11-12

    12/19             Acts 13

    12/20             Acts 14-15

    12/21             Acts 16

    12/22             Acts 17

    12/23             Acts 18-19

    12/24             Acts 20

    12/25             Acts 21

    12/26             Acts 22-23

    12/27             Acts 24

    12/28             Acts 25

    12/29             Acts 26

    12/30             Acts 27-28

    12/31             Catch-up day

     

    Follow @RUF_GaSouthern on twitter for thoughts for the day for each of these passages.

  • The Princess Bride & The Sermon on the Mount

    (from August 2013)

    A trivia-loving friend of mine once asked me to name a movie that fits every genre, “Oh, and there’s only one.” That movie, according to him, is The Princess Bride. Think about it. It fits the children’s genre as well as comedy, action, drama, suspense, romance, horror, plus it’s got Fred Savage (Wonder Years), Columbo, Cary Elwes, Andre the Giant, Robin Wright (Jenny from Forest Gump), and Billy Crystal. How can you go wrong? [Side note: in what section of Netflix would you begin to search for it?! Good luck with that.]

    What does The Princess Bride have to do with Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount? More than you might think. There’s one scene in particular that comes to mind. In The Princess Bride when Inigo Montoya, Fezzik (Andre the Giant), and Vizzini have captured Buttercup, and Wesley (who is then disguised as The Dread Pirate Roberts) is following them. As those three with Buttercup try to escape Wesley and keep him from catching up to them, they first try to outrun him in their boat, but he keeps up with them. (“Inconceivable!”) Next they try to shake him while scaling the Cliffs of Insanity, but they can’t. (“Inconceivable!”) Then they unleash Inigo Montoya on him in a duel, but Wesley prevails. (“Inconceivable!”) Next they try to overpower him with Fezzik, but Wesley wins again. (“Inconceivable!”) And finally it comes to a test of the wits, a battle of the mind with Vizzini, in which Wesley again is the victor. After Wesley passes each of these stages, Vizzini exclaims “Inconceivable!”, and finally after Inigo Montoya has had enough, he looks at Vizzini and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think that means what you think it means.”

    In Matthew 5-7 (what English scholar John Stott calls "Jesus's manifesto on Christianity"), Jesus is speaking to the disciples and the crowd that has followed them, and in this passage he basically says to them, “Christianity? Disciple? You keep using those words. They do not mean what you think they mean.” In other words, Jesus is saying to them, you’ve been getting your definition of what it means to be a Christian disciple from the world around you, instead of getting it from me. [In their day they obeyed dietary laws and circumcision laws and thought themselves to be Christians because of it. What would those things be today? Church attendance? “Quiet times”? Evangelism practices? All good things, of course, but they do not a Christian make.]

    In Matthew 4:19 Jesus says "follow me and I will make you fishers of men." In Jesus's Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, he explains what it means to follow him.

    In these chapters, Jesus has some very radical statements about what it means to be a Christian disciple. Even though people around him thought that those who are blessed (or “happy”) are the strong, powerful, privileged, comfortable, or secure, Jesus says to them “blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3), “those who mourn” (5:4), “the meek” (5:5), “the merciful” (5:7), and “the persecuted” (5:10). He says other seemingly crazy things like, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (5:44), “beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to by seen by them” (6:1), “take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (7:5), and “ask and it will be opened to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you…. How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (7:7, 11).

    You see, what Jesus is doing in this passage, is saying you want to know what it means to “follow me” (Matt. 4:19)? You want to know what it means to be “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19)? Here it is. This is what Christianity is all about. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

    This semester at our weekly meetings we will be studying together Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in our series “Christianity According to Jesus”. We meet on Wednesday nights at 8:30 in the I.T. Building room 1005. We would love for you to come join us and hear about Jesus, who alone is “perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), but became sin so that you might become perfect (2 Cor. 5:21).

    Bring a friend and join us to hear what the Bible says Christianity is all about, according to Jesus.

    Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Georgia Southern University hopes to be a safe place for Christians and non-Christians alike to hear the truth claims of Christianity within an imperfect, loving community. A place where Christians can grow and rest in the great love of Jesus, and where skeptics are safe to hear, process and question. We are here for the strong and the weary, the hopeful and the cynical, the “on-fire” and “burnt out”.

  • 5 Book Recommendations

    (from May 2013)

    Looking for something to read this summer? Do you have a list of your own but no idea where to start? Here are five really great books that are well worth your time. Pick one, or a few, and GATA!

    Prodigal_God_small

     

    1. The Prodigal GodThis is the book that I most often recommend/give to people. It is amazing. The author (Tim Keller) says in the introduction that when he first heard the true meaning of the parable of the prodigal son, it opened his eyes to the true meaning of Christianity. If you haven't read this one you need to. If you have, you should read it again. Can't recommend this one highly enough.

    KnowingGod

     

    2. Knowing God. This is modern-day classic is easily accessible for people of all stages of life. It's a must read sometime in your life. Why not this summer?

    A-Praying-Life

     

    3. A Praying Life. Ever been frustrated with prayer? Felt like it's not "doing anything"? Does your mind constantly wander from praying for Aunt Susie to the next episodes of 24 to be released? Paul Miller has written an incredibly comforting, freeing, and inspiring book on this very important topic, saying that becoming a more mature Christian is becoming more dependent and childlike in your faith.

    heart of evangelism

     

    4. The Heart of Evangelism.  Jerram Barrs paints a beautiful picture of what evangelism is, how the Bible speaks of it, and how Jesus does it. Best book on evangelism I've read.

    jsb

     

    5. The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Wanna know what the Bible is all about? Read this book. Wanna learn how to read the Bible correctly with Jesus in view? Read this book again. Wanna have the "eternity set on our hearts" set on Jesus? Read this book another time. A classmate from seminary told me that this book was the most helpful book he read during his time in seminary - I think he might be right. 

  • The American President and Judges

    I love movies. And there are certain movies that come on USA, TBS, or TNT all the time that I just can’t refuse – any of the “Jack Ryan” Harrison Ford movies (Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, etc.), The Bourne movies, and Talladega Nights to name a fewI also like chick flicks (there, I said it) – Sweet Home Alabama might be the best one ever made, in my humble opinion. The movie The American President also comes on quite frequently, and it’s one that I have a hard time passing up.

    In The American President, Michael Douglass plays President Andrew Shepherd and Michael J. Fox is one of his senior staff members Lewis Rothschild. There is a scene in the movie where Rothschild (Fox) confronts Shepherd (Douglass), who is up for re-election, because his opponent has been the only one campaigning and has been talking about Shepherd to the media and nation, causing Shepherd’s approval rating (and chances for re-election) to fall. Here’s part of their dialogue:

     

    Lewis Rothschild: You have a deeper love of this country than any man I've ever known. And I want to know what it says to you that in the past seven weeks, 59% of Americans have begun to question your patriotism.

    President Andrew Shepherd: Look, if the people want to listen to-...

    Lewis Rothschild: They don't have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.

    President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we've had presidents who were beloved, who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference.

     

    It’s interesting to see both Rothschild and Shepherd’s diagnosis of the problem: Rothschild says they’ll “drink the sand” because that’s the only place to which they’re led, and Shepherd says they’ll “drink the sand” because they don’t know any better. Rothschild says it’s a leadership problem. Shepherd says it’s a wisdom problem.

    The book of Judges says both are the problem. In Deuteronomy 17, Moses foretold the people of Israel that when they get into the land of Canaan which they were promised, that they will desire a king to be over them “like all the nations that are around me.” What Moses tells them immediately after is that they can set a king over themselves, but the one whom the LORD chooses (Dt. 17:14-15). Throughout the book of Judges, one fact stands out – there is a leadership problem with the Judges, and the people don’t have the wisdom to see what the problem is, only that a problem exists. The problem with the leadership of the judges, is that they’re human which means they’re sinful – in Judges the leaders whom God uses to deliver the Israelites are deceptive and dishonest (Ehud), paralyzingly fearful (Barak), lack conviction and have very weak faith (Gideon), don’t know the word of God (Jephthah), and are narcissistic, prideful, and a sex addict (Samson). Each of the judges is fundamentally flawed, and God uses each one of them mightily. But after each one dies there is failure and a longing for someone to rule over them, there is a longing for a king, a longing for the King.

    What we see in Judges is that all of creation functions best under the rule of the right and righteous King, the One who came not to be served, but to serve – King Jesus.

    Join us this spring semester as we look at the book of Judges in our series “Longing for the King”. In this book we will see the utter brokenness of humanity, of ourselves, and our need for the King who came to die, and who will come again to rule and reign among his people.

    We meet Wednesday nights at 8:30 in the IT building, room 1005. As always, all are welcome, so bring your friends.

    RUF is a rest stop for tired Christians, and a safe place for skeptics.

  • Why I like Harry Potter

    (from November 2012)

    I’m very behind the times. But I’m improving – I recently got a new cellular bag phone, dial-up internet, and music from this cool new band “Hootie & the Blowfish” from Columbia House. OK, so maybe I’m not behind in those things, but I just picked up the Harry Potter series for the first time. I recently finished the first book, which came out in 1999 (the same year that current college freshmen would have been in 1st grade). And when I first heard of it my sophomore year of college (2001), I never thought I would say this: I really like it.

    Why do I like Harry Potter? Because I love a good story. Especially a story that inspires and offers hope. As I mentioned, I’m only through the first book, but if I were to sum up the series thus far, it would be about a whole ‘nother world, altogether different from humans (or Muggles, as their called in the series), where evil (Voldemort) was an unintended and unwelcomed intruder into their world doing his worst to some of their kind, but there was hope. Hope of one (Harry Potter) who might one day be able to stand up to this evil.

    I like the story of Harry Potter because it reminds me of a story I love, about a whole ‘nother world altogether. Separated from God by an evil (sin) that was an unintended and unwelcomed intruder (Rom. 6:23) into that world, bringing out the worst of our kind (Jer. 17:9; Mark 9:21; Matt. 15:19). But there was Hope (Matt. 12:18-21; 1 Thess. 1:3) in the One (Gen. 3:15) who would one day come to defeat this evil.

    I like Harry Potter because it reminds me of the story of Jesus. The Bible teaches that from the very beginning God had a plan of redemption. Sin came into the world through one man Adam, and redemption was promised to come through one man, Jesus (Rom. 5). The prophet Isaiah writes that Jesus, the One through whom redemption would come, would come in the form of a baby boy (Isa. 9:6-7), and he would one day establish his rule of peace, sit on the throne, and uphold the world with his righteousness and justice.

    Even more clearly, Genesis 3:15 says that this child, this “offspring” of the woman would be bruised by the Devil, but would ultimately deliver the deathblow to the “offspring” of the serpent. This Genesis 3:15 promise sees it’s fulfillment in Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross – in his death, Jesus received the bruising, but in his resurrection he delivered the deathblow.

    I’m only in the beginning of the second book, but why do I love Harry Potter so far? Because it’s about the power of sacrificial love, and a child who is the hope of redemption for an entire people. Sound familiar?

  • GeorgiaSouthern 3:1-7

    Last Wednesday night at RUF Large Group, I preached on Philippians 3:1-11. During the talk, I read something that I wrote. I decided to take the truth of Paul's writing in verses 1-7, and contextualize it to Georgia Southern. Caveat: this is by no means a translation or interpretation of the passage, but merely an attempt at application of it to us here in Statesboro. I'm posting it because several students have asked for it. Here you go...

     

      1 Listen, y’all – find your joy in the Lord. I’ve told you once, I’ll tell you again, and it’s a good reminder for us all.

      2 Beware of the jerks, the Bible thumpers, those who insist on anything in addition to Jesus to be right with God.

      3 Because we ARE right with God, and we can only worship rightly by the Holy Spirit and have glory in Jesus Christ. Everything of this world will fail you.

      4 I’m not just saying this because I didn’t get in the Christian club by fitting their human (extra-biblical) standards, rather I’m saying this because I met ALL their standards and the Lord was gracious to me. Don’t believe me? Think you look more Christian than I did? Guess again –

      5 I was baptized at an early age, grew up in the church, a 4th generation member, attended VBS and Sunday School faithfully, was a leader in my youth group; I read through the Bible in year, memorized lots of Scripture, memorized the catechism and got lots of gold stars; I went on several mission trips, I read my Bible at Starbucks and The Daily Grind so people can see that I’m a Christian, I volunteered at local places around town, I put Christian stuff up on facebook, I went to church AND Sunday school every Sunday, I was in three different Bible studies, I did several different campus ministries, and I did something “Christian” every night.

      6 I was “on fire” for Jesus; I did what was right, and people knew it. I was really, really good.”

      7 But for all the things I had, I didn’t have Jesus.

  • Ice Age and the Phillippian Church

    (from December 2012)

    Not too long ago, Anna and I decided to get caught up on the Ice Age series, so we watched numbers 2 and 3 (we’d both seen #1 several times), so that we could go to the theater to see number 4. If you haven’t seen them, I recommend checking them out - #1 is really good, #2 is ok, and #3 is somewhere between the other two. Unfortunately, we still haven’t seen #4 yet. One of these days…

    Nevertheless, I love the story of the three main characters, Sid the sloth, Manny the mammoth, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and their journey together as friends, and as they are quick to call themselves, a family. They are a beautiful mix of powerful (Manny), quick (Diego), and clumsy (Sid). Even though they are wildly different in looks, skills, backgrounds, and species, they are a family because of how they love and serve one another. Manny and Diego are seemingly constantly saving Sid from some perilous situation which he has gotten himself into, and Sid is constantly showing them forgiveness as they tease him.

    As we watched Ice Age 2, I couldn’t help but think how similar was the Philippian Church to whom the apostle Paul wrote the letter of Philippians. Their first three converts (and “church members”) were also wildly different in their backgrounds: a well-to-do religious lady consumed with morality but not grace, a demon-possessed slave girl from whom the demon was expelled, and a middle-class, blue-collar prison guard who was just looking to earn a living (see Acts 16). But they were brought together as a church family by Jesus. Paul writes this letter to the Philippians about 5 years after his visit there and the establishing of the Philippian Church; which is a young, struggling, poor, rag-tag church and he says to them, don’t let your joy depend on how bad your situation is. Or how good. He tells them that their joy isn’t to be caught up in and dependent on things or on circumstances, but on a Person. The person of Jesus, who Paul writes in chapter 2 humbles himself to become man, knowing what it is to be human and to suffer for their sake as a human, while still being God. “This is what your joy is to be dependent on,” Paul is basically saying to them, “the great love of God for you, that he would come to earth, as a man, to save sinners, like you." He is saying to them in this letter, "You are to have dependent joy in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.”

    C.S. Lewis puts it well when he says, “Don’t let your joy depend on something you can lose.”

    I invite you to join us this fall semester, as we look at the letter to the Philippians in our series, “Dependent Joy”. We will be meeting in the Business Building (COBA) room 1124 on Wednesday nights at 8:30. As the Ice Age family did, and as the three unlikely first members of the Philippian Church family did, invite a friend to join you.