Renetta Garrison Tull - Online

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Academic Church

At one of our recent student conferences, a student came to the microphone and publicly described one of our graduate student support and development programs as "ACADEMIC CHURCH." He said that sometimes you fall away, and you know what you're supposed to do, then you come back and you know that you're in the right place. I found this description and his heartfelt words both exciting and humbling.

Throughout the rest of that conference segment that allowed students to reflect, there were other sentiments of "academic church" along with a series of "Amens" in the background as people were talking. Again, I found it interesting, but extremely humbling. Actually more than humbling ... I was speechless and nervous ... I remember later praying to ask what that meant ... and if there was anything that I was supposed to be doing. As you know, in the Christian faith, we always desire to be in God's will, so we always want to be doing the right thing. (This reminds me of Philipians 2:13 which says: "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (NIV) ... in the King James it says "both to will and to do of his good pleasure.")

So for a while I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing. I just kept thinking, "WOW, what an awesome thing for so many to feel that strongly about a program that is supposed to be academic." But then I was up early this morning (and wondering why, because I NEED my sleep!) and felt prompted to write. So here is what has been put on my heart: if people see "academic church" or are even looking for it, let's provide something for them to hold onto.

So here's what we're going to do. This space on the internet will be used for people to put encouraging Bible verses -- especially those verses or passages that can be applied to those negative feelings that one has in school. Not just *any* literary inspiring words or general motivational quotes, but actual scriptural verses and passages (with the reference and the version that you are using). Add those verses that kept you going when times were tough. Add those verses that provide joy, peace, patience and faith. You can add just a verse, or add both the verse and the personal story that goes with the reason that you chose it (some call this a "testimony.")

I'll start: when I was doing my dissertation and preparing my defense, I was SO nervous. Here's one of the passages that I held onto ... even when I wasn't sure that things were going right:

------------ JOSHUA CHAPTER 1, verses 5-9, King James Version: ------

5There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

6Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

7Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

8This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

9Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.


So my "testimony" is that God was and IS faithful to his Word. This one example of my nervousness about the dissertation and defense, both successfully completed years ago, shows that these two milestones of the Ph.D. process have long ceased to be symbols of fear and doubt, but now stand strong as testimonies of faith.

OK ... now it's your turn!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Secret

Well, it has been a few months, and I've been contemplating another post for a while. I've wondered what to say and figured that I'll talk briefly about The Secret. Yes, we've heard Oprah talk about the book, she did a show on it, it's even been in the news. But one day, while I was reading my copy of the Living Translation of the Bible, I discovered something that just jumped out. It said: And this is the secret: that the Gentiles will have their full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God's sons; both are invited to belong to his church, and all of God's promises of mighty blessings through Christ apply to them both when they accept the Good News about Christ and what he has done for them. (Ephesians, Chapter 3, Verse 6.) The words "And this is the secret" really made an impression because I'd been hearing so much about what the secret was supposed to be. This says that the secret is that everyone (Gentiles is the name used for people who were not of the Jewish race), yes, everyone ... no matter what race ... who believes in Jesus Christ and that his death was for all of our wrongs -- those that we do deliberately and mistakenly and even unknowingly has the opportunity to have all of God's promises. This is good news because accepting Christ and being a Christian is for everyone.
Here's more from Romans, Chapter 10, verses 9-13: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

So I started thinking about a few things and realized that so many of the things that we get so excited about when we hear it on TV or in the latest book, were really in the Bible all along; for those of us who are Christians, we have to remember to read the Bible ... and not just on Sunday in the church service. So often people say that they don't read the Bible because it's too hard to understand, or because it doesn't make sense. It may be true that some of the translations are harder to read than others, but I invite you to pick a translation that you can understand ... and yes, read it. :) Here's a great online source for any translation that you want:; you can get the New International Version (NIV), King James (the old English version), versions in Spanish, etc. I like The Message version ... talk about something that is easy to understand!! I use the Living Translation because the verses are often combined like paragraphs in a book instead of verses in a poem, and that works for me. But I still use the King James version (especially for the Psalms since those are poems and songs anyway) and read things again there. My Spanish Bible is the Nueva Version Internacional which I like better than the Reina-Velera ... but that's just me.

Here's Ephesians Chapter 3, verses 4-6 (In shorthand, we write: Eph. 3:4-6) in The Message Translation:
As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.

And here it is in Spanish: es decir, que los gentiles son, junto con Israel, beneficiarios de la misma herencia, miembros de un mismo cuerpo y participantes igualmente de la promesa en Cristo Jesús mediante el *evangelio.

In any case, go ahead ... pick up that Bible ... and read it. :) There used to be a joke about the dusty family Bible, but in our generation, we have the quick clicks of links ... so go ahead, click on the Bible gateway link ... and read. If you haven't read the Bible in a long time and are thinking "where do I start?" I recommend starting at The Gospel of John. If you're online on Bible Gateway, you'll see a blank space where you can type any passage and then search. Type John 1 in the space, click search, and read. It will start you off with the NIV version, if that doesn't work for you, go back and try other versions until you find one that is clear to you. I was taught to first pray and ask God to help me to understand what I would be reading ... this has always worked when I've asked sincerely; I may not even understand it immediately, but the understanding does come -- even through talking about what I've read with others.

So go ahead, re-discover your own Bible, go to Bible Gateway and open it online ... May God Bless you as you find so many secrets that were right there all along.