And Then Penn State Lost to Temple…

Last Saturday the Penn State football team did something that has not happened since 1941 – they lost a game to Temple.  Temple?  Really?

I did not watch it, we took the kids to visit my dad and is wife at a campground they were staying at.  Hiking around the woods with the little ones was much more fun than watching that game.

But I checked Twitter and was surprised to see Penn State lose.  Of course, people were shocked.  People were angry.  Other, non-Penn State people thought it was funny.

What very few people mentioned, when talking about Penn State, was that same night the women’s volleyball team began their national title defense.  The women’s volleyball team is a juggernaut; their title last year was their seventh and a few years ago they had a 109 game winning streak.

Of course, the audience for women’s volleyball is quite small.  Football dominates our culture.  College football is basically a minor league for the NFL and the only thing most people know about most universities is in relation to their football teams.  So if a friend of mine from seminary out in Illinois, or a pastor friend who grew up in Columbus, or any local person who just has an irrational hatred for Penn State, gives me a hard time for the loss to Temple, my bringing up our excellence in women’s volleyball does not score me many points.  But as a Penn State alum, I am proud of those ladies and their successes in the name of our school.

I imagine we’re all like this when we think about our roots, where we have come from.  We are all proud of things in ways that outsiders do not care about and may even laugh at.  When I was in Detroit over the summer with a group of students we got a tour from a lifelong resident of the city.  According to her the best pizza place, donut place AND coffee place are all in Detroit.  Her pride for her city was clear, even if we outsiders did not see it.

I attended Penn State for four years then, a few years later, returned to lead the Christian ministry at the Berks campus.  I’ve been hanging around here, talking to students, for a decade now.  That means that fourteen years of my life (2/5) has been spent focusing on Penn State campuses.  Holy cow!

When I think of Penn State then, my first thought does not go to Beaver Stadium and football.  My thoughts go to the students I’ve gotten to know over the years.

 

I think of students who led worship for the first time at CSF and now lead regularly at churches.

I think of students who met at CSF and went on to get married.

I think of students who made faith commitments for the first time, or renewed their commitment as the faith of their parents truly became theirs.

I think of groups of Penn State students traveling throughout the country to bring blessing to places destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

I think of playing games and praying, of eating and arguing, of laughing and encouraging.

So yeah, going to a football game is a fun way to spend a Saturday in the fall.  But it is a tiny part of what is going on at Penn State.  Much more is going on on our campus, on all campuses.  The Holy Spirit is working, and will continue to work, not just on this campus but all over the country.  What the football teams do may make the headlines, but what really matters happens every day where there are no cameras and little glamour, but the most long-term affects.

 

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Follow University Rules and Things Go Fine

Dealing with university rules can be a pain at times.  Whether you want to have food for an event, bring in a guest speaker, pass out information on your group or just about anything else on campus, there is loads of red tape.

Hoops to jump through.

Forms to sign and date.

It can be a pain.  It can be frustrating.  It can seem like so much waste of time, even to the point where you wonder if the university is just some sort of sadistic monster who enjoys inflicting pain.

But here’s the thing – in most cases if you work your way through all the necessary forms and red tape, the university is helpful and treats everyone fairly.  I can only speak of my experience, working at Penn State Berks for ten years, but in my experience if you do what is expected of you then the university is okay with you doing whatever you want.

This was on my mind because the other day I was driving with my kids and channel surfing on the radio.  I found one conservative commentator who was speaking to a college student and recommended this student go to a few websites to find community with like-minded conservative college students.  Later that day I spent some time perusing one of these sites and the very first article I found was titled:

“YAL Students Confronted While Passing Out Constitutions.”

Ouch, that sounds bad.  An attack on freedom and liberty!  Then I read the subheading and the second bullet point states: “The group is not yet registered with the university.

Well that changes things.  Reading on:

“Hello, I work at the university. Let me just give you the low down about what you’re allowed to do when it comes to ‘solicitation’ on a college campus. This is a public space, but within our confines we are allowed to choose what can be here, and we do that through a process of applying to be in the public space,” the employee said.

After the students conceded that they did not have a form giving them permission to hold their event on campus property, they were told, “there is a system through which you can absolutely do all of this. Absolutely. But you have to go through the university policy.”

When asked if there is a reason that students should need permission to demonstrate on campus, the employee responded, “[y]es, there is. So, anybody from a student organization wants to be out on the ground…It’s known as a reservation. They’re not going to deny you, sir; I guarantee you.”

At this point, the correct thing to do is politely say thank you, walk away and work on becoming a registered student organization.  What the students actually did was refuse to follow the rules and, basically, demand special treatment.

Penn State Berks has “free speech zones.”  If someone wants to come on campus and hand out Bibles (as the Gideons do) or yell at students that they are going to hell (as has been done before) they can do so in a few specific areas.  No one likes being yelled at, but it is allowed.  Why have such zones, someone might ask?  The answer is simply that students need to be kept safe and get to class.  Should people be allowed to stand in the middle of a busy walkway, blocking students from getting to Calculus, so he can yell from his soapbox?

I do  not know if the members of this group that thinks they are being treated unfairly are Christians or not.  But as Christians, it seems clear to me that we ought to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13) and, beyond that, not expect special treatment.  So my advice to these entitled students would be to do what the university requires to become registered and then hand out their constitutions.  There is real persecution in the world, but not getting your way all the time is not it.

Explaining College Ministry to a Four Year Old

11951486_10153969197071564_3944124659357816490_o“Daddy, why are you giving bags to the students?”

We were driving home from campus earlier tonight when Junia asked me this question.  Last Friday we had gone to a church to help put items into care packages for the PSU Berks students.  Junia excelled at this, marching through the assembly line and filling each bag with soda, ramen, granola bars, crackers, markers and tablets.  Then today she went with me as we transported hundreds of these gift bags from the drop site (another church) to campus.  In the midst of large men carrying anywhere from four to ten bags at once, Junia consistently carried her two, making sure to work hard and do her part.

Unfortunately it was getting late for her, so I took her home before we actually got to hand them out.  Then she asked me why we do it.  As I thought about how to answer, anticipating other questions she might ask, I realized how difficult it is to explain these sorts of things to a child.

“Well sweetheart, Daddy works with the college students, you know that right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, my job is to help the students learn more about Jesus and God.  We want the students to know that God loves them so one way we do this is giving them a bag of free goodies.”

“How does giving them a bag show them that?”

“Well, you know how when you love someone you sometimes give them a present, like at Christmas?  One way we show we care about other people is by giving them presents.  So we give them gift bags to show them we care about them and to help them know God cares about them and loves them.  Does that make sense?”

“Yes.”

“And you know what, when you go to college it is probably the first time you have lived away from home.  A lot of the students have lived with their mommies and daddies their whole lives.  Moving away from home can be scary, some of the students may be missing their families and friends.  We want to make them feel welcome at Penn State Berks, to help them know people out there care for them.  What do you think of that?”

“I think its nice!”

So there you go.  That’s why we do it, reduced to a way a four year old can understand.

By the time I got back to campus from dropping her off, the students were already handing them out.  As it is every year, it was a wonderful time.  Many students expressed gratitude and joy at receiving these bags, some were even shocked to get something for free.  Our prayer of course is that these bags remind the students that lots of people out there care about them and beyond that, that God cares for them.

Beloit College Mindset List , Class of 2019

Every year Beloit College releases their mindset list to give us a window on the world in which incoming freshman have grown up.  This list is always a fun and enlightening read.

When I speak to churches about campus ministry, I say that working with college students does require us to speak a new language in some way.  It is not quite the same as traveling to a foreign country and literally learning a new language.  But we are shaped by our culture and times and there are assumptions and experiences people in my generation have had that are totally different then the generation ahead of or behind mine.  For example, with every year the terror attacks of September 11 become a more distant memory.  Everyone alive then can remember where they were at when they heard, but soon it will be an item for history books.

Here are some highlights from the list (or read the whole thing):

https://stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.jshttps://admissions.beloit.edu/pinghttp://../../js/buttons.js// http://../../js/modernizr.jsThe Mindset List: 2019 List/jquery/jquery_latest.js<!–//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.11.1/jquery.min.js–>/jquery/jquery_latest.js<!–/reason/js/jquery.reasonAjax.js–>

3. They have never licked a postage stamp.

4. Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.

5. Four foul-mouthed kids have always been playing in South Park.

7. They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.

9. The announcement of someone being the “first woman” to hold a position has only impressed their parents.

10. Charlton Heston is recognized for waving a rifle over his head as much as for waving his staff over the Red Sea.

11. Color photos have always adorned the front page of The New York Times.

13. “No means no” has always been morphing, slowly, into “only yes means yes.”

14. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.

16. Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.

18. They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.

 

22. Phish Food has always been available from Ben and Jerry.

24. When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies.

25. The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.

26. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.

27. Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.

35. At least Mom and Dad had their new Nintendo 64 to help them get through long nights sitting up with the baby.

36. First Responders have always been heroes.

37. Sir Paul and Sir Elton have always been knights of the same musical roundtable.

38. CNN has always been available en Español.

39. Heaven’s Gate has always been more a trip to Comet Hale-Bopp and less a film flop.

40. Splenda has always been a sweet option in the U.S.

43. Humans have always had implanted radio frequency ID chips—slightly larger than a grain of rice.

44. TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.

46. The proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.

47. They had no idea how fortunate they were to enjoy the final four years of Federal budget surpluses.

48. Amoco gas stations have steadily vanished from the American highway.

49. Vote-by-mail has always been the official way to vote in Oregon.

50. …and there has always been a Beloit College Mindset List

Why I Don’t Give a Straight Answer to Every Question

“Yeah, but Dave, what do you believe is the right answer?”

One evening during our recent Spring Break trip I was sitting at dinner with two member of our team.   The student who asked this question is Heather.  Heather has been a member of CSF for over three years.  In that time I have gotten to know her well and I am impressed with her spiritual maturity and thirst to grow in her faith.  We have had many conversations, from debates over politics to arguing differences in our theological beliefs.

The discussion on this night moved from topic to topic – the college dating scene, gay marriage, the nature of hell and what it means, at its core, to be a Christian.  When Heather asked me what I thought about some of these topics, I would offer a couple different answers, honestly pointing out where sincere Christians differ.  If she shared a point, even one I agreed with, I would offer the opposing view, just to make her think.  After a while she got frustrated, wanting me to just tell her the answer!

But I have come to believe that simply telling people the answer, or at least what I think the true answer is, may not be all that helpful.  It is worth more to give a variety of viewpoints, to ask questions and keep the discussion going in order for the student to figure out what she thinks the answer is on her own.

That said, there are some subjects where I am much more willing to offer a clear-cut and definitive answer.  If someone asks me how to be saved or who Jesus is, I will answer and be more committed to my answer.  But on most other topics, on the sort of secondary issues that Christians disagree on, I may share what I think but I am more likely to work to get the student I am talking with to think things through.

The goal of campus ministry is to help students become more like Jesus, to grow and mature in their faith.  While I make no claims to be an expert, I have learned that this sort of change happens, and sticks for the long-term, when students begin to discover truth and Jesus and answers for themselves.  So maybe I am simply back at the old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish.

My prayer in this is that Heather, and students like her, would continue to take the steps to grow in their faith.

 

Question and Answer Night (Weekly Word)

Last night we had a question and answer night at our CSF meeting.  Full disclosure – I am writing this at 5 PM, two hours prior to the event beginning, though this post will not go up till Friday.  So I do not know for sure what questions will be discussed.  But I do know that this is always a fun night filled with lots of ideas and dialogue and debate.

It is one of the nights that reminds me why I love campus ministry so much.

On Fridays on this blog I tend to write what I call “Weekly Words”.  These posts are intended for the college students in CSF, thus for Christian students on a secular campus.  Often I basically summarize what we discussed the night before, in case anyone was absent and wants to catch up.  I am thinking that, with summer break quickly approaching, that it would be fun to dedicate each Friday to answering some of the questions from our Q and A nights.  Or even answering new questions that come in via Facebook or email.

I have always hesitated at the title “question and answer” night though, because it seems presumptuous of me to imply I can offer a quick and easy answer to questions that have stumped people and caused debate for centuries.  We have moved to calling the night a “Spirituality and Religion Discussion” though that is vague enough that people ask what it means and the response is: “ask questions and pastor Dave will answer them.”  That said, I am always very clear that I am offering my opinion.  For some questions I offer what I believe is a straight up and certain answer.  Other questions I offer a variety of possible answers and encourage the students to pick one.  It depends on the question.

All that to say, if you have a question about God, religion or whatever, I’d love for you to send it in to me.  You can reach me via email (campusminister_dave@yahoo.com) or on Twitter (dmlhershey).  Starting in a few weeks, I’ll throw out some answers.

It should be fun!

Reflections on a Decade of Short Term Mission trips

When I moved to University Park, the “main” campus of Penn State, for my junior year I got involved in Christian Student Fellowship (CSF).  Later that year I went on my first short term mission trip, rebuilding houses in North Carolina.  The next year we went to Miami and worked with Habbitat for Humanity.  Then I took three years off to attend seminary before returning to work, at Penn State Berks, as a campus pastor in 2005.  Every single spring break we take a mission trip and I just realized that this makes ten years in a row of trips for me as staff.

In the last year or so I’ve noticed some blogs and articles questioning short term mission trips, with others stepping up to defend them.  Many of the criticisms are valid, though they seem to be more focused on cross-cultural, oversees type trips a youth group might take over the summer.  We’ve done two such summer trips in my time at Berks, but most of our trips do not fit the stereotype of tourism masquerading as a mission trip.

At the same time, after ten years of trips I find myself reflecting.  Long graduated students, wonderful memories and fun stories keep coming to mind.  And I wonder, why do we do it?  Just because it is spring break and we do it every year?

1. We Go to Serve – We do not always have the most skilled group of students, but every year they work hard.  I remember mudding out houses in New Orleans months after Katrina in 2006, painting a house in Joplin in 2012, helping kids read in DC in 2013 and hanging drywall in  New York in 2014.  Some students were terrified of these tasks, whether reading to kids or working with power tools.  But they learned, with the help of great leaders.  After one week it may not appear much was done, but usually months after we are home I receive emails with pictures of completed houses, worked on by our group and many others.

2. We Go to Learn – Staying in the United States may not appear to be “cross-cultural”, but as we leave our comfort zone students are confronted with an often unfamiliar world.  I remember the shock of one girl in Miami in 2010 as she saw a homeless person eating out of the garbage.  Seeing images of hurricane destruction or homeless people on the news is one thing, seeing it up close is something else.  The way I see it, university is the time for students to get an education.  What CSF does on these trips is contributes to this education (I’ve asked Penn State for a kickback in this, they’ve never complied!).  The students return with a bigger vision of the world and their place in it.

3. We Go to Build Community – Every year when we return from the trip, our students are more close-knit then when they left.  It  makes me wish Spring Break was in October.  The relationships that form on this trip are the equivalent of months spent on campus.  Throw a bunch of college students together for  a week and they will grow closer.

4. We Go to Grow Closer to God – They do not just grow closer to each other, but to God.  We have Bible studies and prayer and such on campus year-round.  But it is different on these trips.  Maybe it is the daily rhythmn, maybe it is being away from distractions, but as students do private devotions each morning and have large group discussions at night, they experience God in new ways.

5. We Go as an Open Group – I am not sure how to word this one.  When I said above we build community, the obvious goal is not to create a Christian bubble.  That is why I mention this point – There is no requirement that one must be a Christian to attend.  This trip is open to, and has included, atheists and Muslims and others who are just unsure.  They go because they want to spend a week serving others, or maybe they just do not want to go home.  But we love when people who do not identify as Christians choose to come and work to help others alongside of us.  Again, it is in these situations that real life change (see 3 and 4 above) happens.

6. We Go to Have Fun – Every year the students have a blast.  I have fond memories of eating crawfish in the French Quarter (2008 I think it was), of the bus breaking down on the way to the Gulf Coast, of seeing many national monuments and some museums in NY and DC, of standing where three states touch just outside Joplin.  I remember games of Dutch Blitz and Catan, delicious filling meals and sparse, nearly unedible ones.  But the fun does not just happen in our spare time, it is fun working together.

7. We Go to Build Habits – Part of the function of campus ministry is to help students build good habits they will carry with them through life.  Spring break helps with this as students encounter great organizations doing fantastic work (Mennonite Disaster Service, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Center for Student Missions and more).  They may discover skills they can use on such trips in the future as part of a church, or even in their career.  Or, they may further build the habit of helping others so when their neighbor needs help hanging drywall or fixing a toilet, they have experience.

There are probably more reasons.  I know that the students do not return from these trips unchanged.  They are highlights of their college career that are both fun and a step in their discipleship to Jesus Christ.

So pray for us next week as we go on our trip to Crisfield, Maryland to help rebuild houses damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Weekly Word – Job’s Suffering, Dialogue and General Awesomeness

I love the book of Job.  It is forty-two chapters of brilliant dialogue around the problem of evil and suffering that never really provides any solid answers.  People argue and debate, lose their temper and scream at each other.  Its great!

I did not always like it.  I remember hearing people say, in regards to the problem of evil and suffering, to just read Job.  As a kid I read the first few chapters and last few chapters to get the gist, but I skipped the dialogue.  It was not until much later that I plodded through the whole thing and realized it did not offer the answers I wanted but instead gave space to ask questions.

I think people struggle with Job because we read, if we read, one or two chapters a day.  In this way it will take weeks to work through Job.  If you only read one chapter you will read a diatribe by one of Job’s friends one day and then Job’s response the next day.  But by the next day, you’ll forget what Job is responding to.  That is why I think the best way to get Job is to read it in big chunks.   If you can, read it all at once!

Last night at CSF we went through the entire book of Job, obviously not going deep into much of it since it is so long.  Here is an outline of the book:

  • Job 1:1-12 – Introduction
  • 1:13-22 – Satan’s First Attack and Job’s Response
  • 2:1-10 – Satan’s Second Attack and Job’s Response
  • 2:11- 13 – Job’s Friends Arrive
  • Chapters 3-27 – Dialogue between Job and his three friends arguing about why this has happened to Job – Dialogue continually escalates in anger of friends towards Job due to Job’s refusal to admit he deserved it
    • Job’s friends confident – they knew how God worked and that God did not punish those who did not deserve it, so Job must deserve it (rigid retribution theology)
    • Job agrees God works this way in theory – but Job insists he is sinless in this case and thus God is wrong and Job wants to plead his case
  • Job silences his friends (Zophar does not respond a third time like the others
  • Job 28 – An Ode To Wisdom
    • 28:28 – To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
  • Job 29-31 – Job’s Final Speech – His Defense
  • Job 32-37 – Elihu speaks to Job
    • Job has silenced the traditionalists, Elihu speaks for the younger generation, offering new solutions to old problems but fails to provide an answer just as the others failed.
    • Elihu’s speech on God’s greatness in chapter 37 does foreshadow God’s speech
  • Job 38-41 – God speaks and silences Job
  • 42:1-6 – Job repents, acknowledges he does not know God’s ways
  • 42:7-9 – God rebukes Job’s friends for not speaking right as Job has
  • 42:10-17 – God blesses Job

One of my favorite things about Job is how the story seems to question the sort of wisdom you find in the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs, a fantastic work in its own right, tends to promise that hard workers succeed and lazy or evil people fail.  This is the sort of theology that both Job and his friends hold to.  Yet we know from real life that things do not always work out this way.  More than that, the fact that our Bible contains both Job and Proverbs tells us something important – being a wise person, a disciple of God, does not mean turning our brain off and blindly following a few commands.  Instead, God provides us wisdom teaching that will show us how to think and live in the situation we find ourselves in.

Since Job and his friends have this basic idea that God only punishes people who deserve it, they insist Job deserves it.  He must have some secret sin to confess!  Job, agreeing that God punishes those who deserve it, argues that God is unfair in this case for he does not deserve it.  Thus, Job wants to plead his case with God.  What we, the reader, know is that God is not the one who did this.  God has allowed it for sure, but has not done it.

Is there a difference between God doing something and allowing something to be done by someone else?

I think there is.  There is a big difference between pushing my daughter off her bike as she is learning to ride then in allowing her to fall as she learns.  Anyway, I drew a few general conclusions from Job’s story last night:

Job was WRONG in what he said about God (42:3, 6)

*God’s speech emphasizes the complexity of creation and God’s power over it – as finite beings we do not know much

*When we talk about God then we ought to be humble, realizing how much we do not know.

*When someone suffers and comes to us…we better not be like Job’s friends!

Job was more right in what he said about God than his friends were

*Even though Job was wrong, he was closer to being right even as he challenged and questioned God

*This shows me that God desires a real relationship and not just people who blindly follow accepted truths

 

God’s speech to Job is satisfying on one level but leaves us wanting more as God remains kind of distant from Job’s problems.

In Jesus the distant God of Job comes close and experiences our suffering

What Job wanted of God we get in Jesus.

Thoughts on the Most Horrific Story in the Bible (Weekly Word)

Last night at CSF we studied the story of a Levite and his concubine from Judges 19-21.  If it is not the most horrific story in the Bible, it is certainly top 5.  The concubine, a sort of second-tier, lesser wife, leaves the Levite and goes back home.  Older translations said the woman prostituted herself out, basically blaming the woman for much of what was about to happen.  Newer scholarship argues that the specific reason she leaves is unclear, leaving it as anger at the Levite.  When the rest of the story is taken into consideration and the Levite’s character is seen, we can see why she left him.

He goes after her and together they begin the journey back to his house.  They are forced to stay in the town of Gibeah for the night and are taken in by an elderly man.  The men of the town come to the house they are staying and, in echoes of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, demand the Levite be sent out so they can rape him.  To make a long story short, he sends his concubine out to save himself.  The next morning, after she is viciously abused, he awakes and finds her laying on the outer doorstep.  Apparently he had no problem sleeping while she was raped.  The text leaves it vague as to whether she is dead or unconscious.

The Levite proceeds to cut her body into twelve pieces and send them out to the twelve tribes, calling for vengeance.  He tells his fellow Israelites what happened, putting himself in the best light.  A few battles follow, the tribe of Benjamin (it was a city of this tribe that committed the crime) is decimated.  The few remaining Benjaminite men have no wives and thus one of the 12 tribes of Israel will die out.  So the Israelites, fresh off decimating them, seek to find them wives.  They do this through further violence and rape.

Its all around awful.

As I prepared for this lesson, two thoughts stuck in my mind.  First is a church I often drive past that has a sign out front that says, “Jesus on every page!”  It sounds nice, but I don’t see Jesus on these pages.  Second is a few websites I came across that use this story as proof the Bible as a whole, and God if one exists, is evil.  The argument seems to be that since this is in the Bible, God is okay with it.

I think both of those are false starts.  Here are the lessons I drew from this story:

  1. The Bible is a Story About Humans and Does Not Hide Humanity’s Depravity – Within this not everything humans do is smiled upon by God.  In other words, just because it is in the Bible does not mean God approves of what happened.
  2. The Bible is Not Simply a “How-To” Manual For Life – Sometimes the Bible is difficult to understand.  We are obsessed with practical application but there does not seem to be much here.  I mean, it can be found – be hospitable, don’t abuse women.  But such lessons are not why this story is in scripture for such lessons could be taught in other ways that do not include horrific narratives.  The point is,the Bible is not always easy, despite what some Christians may say.
  3. The Bible is Not Unbiased – The point of this story – “everyone did what they saw fit because there was no king in Israel”.  That statement is repeated both before the story and at the very end. This shows that the reason Judges was written was to argue for why a king was needed.  Judges is propaganda explaining why we (Israel) need a king.  Yet if we turn the page and go into the books of Samuel and Kings we learn that once kings do show up, violence and evil continue to plague God’s people.  If the problem Judges sees is correct (everyone does as he sees fit), their cure is found to be inadequate (so we need a king).
  4. Ultimately then, this story points to the inadequacy of human systems and even kings – Reading this as a Christian, we do get to Jesus.  The answer is not a king, the answer is Jesus.  Jesus is the one who willingly steps outside, leaving his own safety behind, and gives himself into the hands of the mob to be abused and killed.  Jesus voluntarily takes on violence to say others.
  5. Where is the application then, if there is any?  Well, are we like the Levite, in seeking our own security first?  Or are we like Jesus, giving ourselves for others?  Jesus had the opportunity to harm a woman who was accused of sin but he saved her (John 8:2-11).   And ultimately, as I said above, he gave his life in our place.  This is our example.
  6. Do We Listen to the Voiceless Among us Today? Who is the nameless concubine in our culture today?  It is clear that rape and abuse continue to happen, both on our campus and in our churches.  May we speak in in support of those facing this.  Here are just two resources that are helpful: RAINN  and GRACE .

Weekly Word – Some Lessons from the Story of Ruth

Weekly Word is a weekly Friday devotional geared towards the college students at PSU Berks.  But hopefully anyone else who stumbles across it finds something helpful.

This semester on campus our theme for Thursday nights is The Bible You Never Knew: Secondary Characters Who Matter.  I am hoping to investigate the lives of some less known Bible characters, people who do not get a yearly mention in Sunday school growing up, like Abraham, Moses, David and Daniel.  Of course, who is a secondary character is a somewhat arbitrary choice.  This week we looked at Ruth, who has a whole book of the Bible dedicated to her story!  So why did I choose her as a “secondary character”?  In my experience, the stories of great women from the Bible such as Ruth tend to only show up in women’s Bible studies.  Everyone studies David and Moses, only women study Ruth and Esther.

Like I said, its somewhat arbitrary.  That said, I think the story of Ruth teaches us some amazing things.  I won’t go into the details of the story here, other then to note that it is important to grasp that Ruth was a Moabite living in Israel  The narrator refers to her as a Moabite quite often, not allowing us to forget her outsider status.  Moabites and Israelites did not get along in those days, there was a mutual animosity.  Living in Israel, Ruth would have not been trusted, she would have been seen as a questionable woman  In some ways, think of negative stereotypes that immigrants have today and you may begin to get the idea of how people thought of Ruth.

Not everyone looked down on her.  Boaz showed kindness to her which, to make a long story short, led to their marriage.  Ruth ended up giving birth to a son whose descendants included King David and Jesus.  So Ruth is rather important.

Here are four points I drew from the story with some questions I gave the students time to discuss last evening:

1. Be generous in ways that go above and beyond what is required.

Ruth would have been seen as “just an immigrant” or “just a Moabite” or “just a woman.” Who do you tend to look down on, to see as “just a _______”?

Who is someone in my life that I should make an extra effort to love and care for?

2. By walking in someone’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective we are able to be humble and sympathize

How would the way I talk about immigration (or really, anything) be different if I tried to put myself in someone else’s shoes for one day?

3. The love of God transcends all human made borders and boundaries.

Do I tend to think God favors people who think, act, talk and look like me? Am I open to loving the people Jesus loves?

4. The most unlikely person can be used by God to be the hero of the story.

With a college education, you are someone empowered to do great things. You will have opportunities others may not. What will you do to empower all the Ruths in this culture who are going to do great works for the kingdom of God?