I have recently been thinking a lot about the types of assignments i would require as a teacher at different levels–primarily high school or college. This is because i interact with many different teaching styles on a weekly basis as a substitute teacher.
Today, the assignment i reflected upon was bellwork. Bellwork consists of a few questions that are written on the board so the students can get eased into the current subject after whatever class (or car ride or lunch) they just came from.
It got me thinking about seminary.
If i was ever to become a seminary/college professor, i have decided that my class would be primarily lecture with a midterm and final for exams. The only other grades would come from attendance and a research paper.
However, after today i decided that bellwork is indispensable, especially if i’m teaching in the Bible department at a Christian college/seminary.
Here’s why: too often collegiate biblical studies turns the Bible into something to master, and it can suck all of the joy and wonder out of the Scriptures. Rather than mastering the Scriptures, we must let the Scriptures master us.
When it comes to bellwork this could be as simple as writing a verse on the board and saying, “write 5 applications from this text.” It gets the Word in us, and it prevents us from standing as judge over it.
I’m preaching to myself as i write this. I too often see the Bible in the wrong way myself. I see it as something to be smart about, rather than something to knock me off my high horse. When i misunderstand the intention of the Scriptures, a nasty cycle can develop.
It looks like this: When people don’t hear my “wisdom” on the Bible, i get angry; when i get angry, i have forgotten God; when i have forgotten God, i get depressed; when i get depressed, temptations attack.
(Recently i have been depressed, and it has been partially related to people not recognizing me the way i think they should for the “knowledge” that i possess. This is pride. It is also only one very small, but very potent, part of my depression.)
There was another man in the Bible, whose life looked similar. He was doing nothing externally wrong, but enemies still pursued him. He couldn’t find safety and solitude anywhere. Whether at home with his wife or out in the country with his soldiers, the reigning king and his official army pursued this man to kill him.
Finally, this man finds himself in a position where he could kill the pursuing king. He’s hiding in a cave with his men when the king travels inside to relieve himself.
The man’s soldiers all say, “Kill him. Put our troubles to an end.”
And this man–whose name is David–instead of instantly striking down his enemy, turns his heart to prayer and prays:
Lord, I call on You; hurry to help me.
Listen to my voice when I call on You.
May my prayer be set before You as incense,
the raising of my hands as the evening offering.
Lord, set up a guard for my mouth;
keep watch at the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart turn to any evil thing
or perform wicked acts
with men who commit sin.
Do not let me feast on their delicacies.
Let the righteous one strike me —
it is an act of faithful love;
let him rebuke me —
it is oil for my head;
let me not refuse it.
Even now my prayer is against
the evil acts of the wicked.
When their rulers will be thrown off the sides of a cliff,
the people will listen to my words,
for they are pleasing.
As when one plows and breaks up the soil,
turning up rocks,
so our bones have been scattered
at the mouth of Sheol.
But my eyes look to You, Lord God.
I seek refuge in You; do not let me die.
Protect me from the trap they have set for me,
and from the snares of evildoers.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.
Instead of heeding his soldiers’ advice, David spares the life of King Saul.
Because the Word of God should master us, and because depression has recently been a struggle for me, and because Psalm 141 contains help for the depressed soul, over the next few weeks i will be expositing this passage both as it relates to David’s situation and as it relates to a person’s struggle with depression.
I pray that you would seek help in God’s Word if this is an area in which you struggle.
And if you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ, i tell you now that that must be the first step.
In fact, if anyone ever had a right to live a depressed life, it was Christ. He was born to die. He knew exactly what God’s plan was for His life, and it was SUFFERING. However, the writer of Hebrews explains, “Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (12:2, emphasis added).
He is to be our primary example in this respect.
But He cannot be our example if we haven’t believed in Him. Trust Him today–even if it’s the first time–and let His Word master you. Don’t try to be the Master of the Bible!
I promise you this: if you let Him master you, He will give you the wisdom and strength to master your problems–depression included. Don’t focus on becoming a master of anything; instead focus on humbly submitting yourself to Christ and His word. I guarantee you that it will change your life.
In this with you.
I love you.
Soli Deo Gloria
The next entry can be found here.