Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 – Remember and Learn

My friends, I beg you
    to listen as I teach.
I will give instruction
    and explain the mystery
    of what happened long ago.
These are things we learned
    from our ancestors,
    and we will tell them
    to the next generation.
We won’t keep secret
    the glorious deeds
    and the mighty miracles
    of the Lord….

God made a path in the sea
    and piled up the water
    as he led them across.
He guided them during the day
    with a cloud,
    and each night he led them
    with a flaming fire.
God made water flow
from rocks
he split open
    in the desert,
    and his people drank freely,
    as though from a lake.
He made streams gush out
    like rivers from rocks. (CEV)

This is a psalm designed to recall historical events for the theological education of ourselves and the next generation. Through passing on eventful stories from the past to future generations, God’s people continue to remember and realize robust divine action in the world. In recalling stories of care and deliverance, God’s commandments are kept. Putting trust in a powerful and benevolent deity brings assurance and encouragement.

Using the psalter as a means of recollecting past events is a sage way of edifying God’s people and living into the command of the Law, according to Moses:

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:1-12, NIV)

Since psalms are meant to be recited repeatedly throughout one’s spiritual life, doing so inoculates the worshiper from faithless rebellion and counteracts temptations toward trusting in idols. It is a preservative, giving life, purpose, and wholeness. Regular spiritual consumption of the psalms provides a pattern of instruction which molds and maintains the soul so that, when hard situations arise, the supports are there to hold up under the adversity.

The life that is truly life, and life for those who come after us, comes through intentional remembrance and learning. Today’s psalm is a fitting invitation to set our hope in God, remember God’s wonderful works, and keep God’s commands.

The Big Deal About Education

 

Education is a big deal to people.  It’s big enough for parents to shell-out thousands of dollars to a university, and big enough for students to rack up tens of thousands in debt in order to obtain a college degree.  If it is that big of a deal, then it only makes sense that the church would take an interest in students and parents.  I’m in that parent role of seeing my own kids come and go into college.  Taking an interest in students by talking to them about their classes, degree programs, plans for post-graduation, and helping them to make sense of their education is a huge opportunity for the church to guide young people in forming a healthy view of school and in developing a solid Christian worldview.  Just sending kids off and hoping for the best isn’t the best approach to either education or the Christian life.  The following are some realities of student thought, and some ways we as the church can help them as they go through their education.

Students look at education as a big deal because they tend to view it as instrumental in getting a good job, and going to college as a place to have fun. So, it really matters to them to obtain the degree so that they can have a rewarding, secure, and comfortable life. It is not very often that I have heard students talk about the intrinsic value of education, but only in terms of the advantages an undergraduate degree will have for them. Yet, a college education affords the chance to be shaped into seeing a broad perspective of the world and become productive members of society and responsible citizens. In other words, education has the potential to have life-long worth even if a student never attains a high level job.

More than just obtaining information, knowledge of a subject, and a certain skill set, a good, well-rounded education can instill necessary critical thinking abilities and an expansive understanding of the world that will serve a student for a lifetime. So, rather than school being only a series of hoops to jump through in order to obtain respect, security, and a comfortable lifestyle, it truly has value in and of itself.

One of the great privileges of getting to know and talk with students is helping them to think through the value of their education from a Christian perspective, to see how their major studies and degree programs used for God can impact the world, and how they can take all their acquired knowledge and make sense of it through biblical categories. In doing this, we can help redeem a college education from only being a means to an end in a pragmatic society.

Here are some questions I typically ask students concerning education and work:
–How do you understand the working world?
–Do you see being a student as a calling? Why, or why not?
–Do you view a “secular” job as a calling? Why, or why not?
–How do you, or can you, connect your faith and your education?
–What do you think is the meaning and purpose of work?
–How does being a student reflect the nature and character of God?
–How is God transforming you through being in college?
–Can you think the thought that God wants to use your job as a means of sanctification?
–What ethical challenges do you face as a student?
–How does your education help you to be a better person?

               What I am laying out here is a view of church, let alone education, which, seems to me, is necessary.  In other words, is church just a place to go and attend worship services?  Or, is church made up of forgiven people who seek to help one another redeem their lives in the world in which they live?  If so, relationships are imperative.  If this is all such a big deal, let’s show it by investing relational capital, and not just money alone, into young people’s lives.