Russell and Duenes

Feeling Nostalgic – Ten Years at Redwood Christian – 2009-10

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A strange fear has crept over me in the last few weeks. In one way or another, I’ve been involved in Christian education since 1995, and I’ve worked in largely Christian settings since 1992. As such, I’ve always had a great outlet for teaching and preaching, for using the spiritual gifts and theological education that God has given me. I’d be the first one to tell others that their gifts can and should be used in the marketplace, and yet when it comes to it for me, when it means that I must give the lion’s share of my attention to studying law, I fear that the theology, Greek studies, biblical exegesis, etc, will grow rusty through disuse. Lord God, may it never be. May I always be, as John Wesley exhorted, a “man of one book.” May the use of these things actually increase and abound to your glory and honor, and the good of your people, O God.

The more I think about my students, the more my thoughts keep coming back to one refrain: “Take it and read.” These are the words St. Augustine heard in that garden when he was struggling for his spiritual life, and he took the words to mean, “Pick up your Bible and start reading it.” He did, and was immediately and powerfully converted. The one thing I tell my students again and again seems to be the thing that is most ignored: Read, read, read your Bibles. Read them from Genesis to Revelation, and then do it again and again and again. Read through the Pentateuch four or five times in one year. Read through the major prophets four or five times in one year. There is no substitute for reading one’s Bible. Get your friends to read it with you. Agree on a certain amount of reading each day and then hold each other to it. Discuss the questions that come up for you as you read. I tell the story of the first time I ever read through the Old Testament as a whole. I was already graduated from college, and I set myself to read the O.T. in three months. I asked some friends to do it with me. It turned out that in order to do it, I had to read for roughly 45 minutes each day. I had the time at that point in my life, and I did it. One thing I can testify, my heart and actions were not the same during those three months. The word of God had such a powerful effect on me, I truly felt its truth in my heart. Further, when I got to the end of the O.T., having read it in such an intense way, I was ready for the New Testament. The reality of sin and idolatry made such an impression on me, that I came to the gospels with a clear recognition that we are desperately in need of a Savior. I don’t know how much more I can plead. I’m preaching to myself. We will forever be shallow if we are not well acquainted with the whole terrain of Scripture. Let me exhort you again, my students, if any of you have read this far. Make the Scriptures your primary concern. Let us take Jonathan Edwards’ resolution to heart in blood earnestness: “Resolved, that I will study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently as that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”

I had the pleasure of chatting with some of my seniors from last year just today. I can remember when Michael Giltner, A.J. Vanegas, and Eric McPherson played softball for me in middle school, and now they’re all grown up, bigger and stronger than me. Last year’s senior class will always have a special place in my heart because they were the first class to which I was able to teach Apologetics/ Ethics. We changed our Bible sequence around last year, and made the switch from teaching freshmen to teaching N.T. Epistles to juniors and Apologetics/ Ethics to seniors. I thank God for the change, and I hope the students benefited from it. We had a lot of fun with it. I’ll never forget the chats I had with Jeromie Scholten about politics and economics. The jokers like Julian Charondo, James Espinoza, Drew Dixon, Christian Randall, and Kie Ehlers. Julia Craig’s outbursts and impassioned pleas in class, and the genuine spiritual curiosity that permeated this senior class. I learned so much just preparing for the class, and in a kind of irony, I’m not sure I’d be going to law school this year had I not taught apologetics and ethics last year. When one comes to see that Jesus is Lord of everything, that He’s the smartest man who ever lived, that from him come all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and that his glory will cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea, then one begins to jettison all false dualisms between the sacred and the secular, between the religious and the political, between life in the marketplace and and life in “ministry.”

As for the juniors, I had to apologize insofar as they would have to put up with me again so soon after their freshman year. I had never taught the Epistles before, and I appreciated their patience with me. We covered some interesting topics such as the theology of the human body, justification, money and the Bible, decision-making and the will of God, and suffering as a Christian. Yet I was struggling to connect with them, and felt that the class had too much of a purely academic feel to it. Al Hearne to the rescue. He suggested that I make Fridays an open forum; so we went to a Q & A format on Fridays and those ended up being some of the best teaching days for the class. This was also true, I believe, this year, when we had the “Open Mind Fridays” from the very beginning of the year. Of course these juniors will always be special to me because they would also be the last senior class I would teach at Redwood (at least for now).

Lord, I pray you would continue to bless the Class of 2010. They were such a blessing to me. Thank you for the things you taught all of us last year. I pray you would continually turn their hearts back to Christ, to His saving power and His everlasting love. I pray, Father, that they would be rooted and grounded in the truth of the Scriptures, and that they would see Jesus as the joy above all joys. I pray that they would begin and end with you, that they would worship you, Triune God, in reverence and awe, and that they would look forward to your appearing and they would rejoice in your final victory over the powers of sin and death. Amen.




Written by Michael Duenes

June 7, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Duenes, Nostalgia

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