Month: October 2016

When Life Gets a Little Untied…


Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Executive Director

I was walking across campus today, minding my own business, making the trek from the parking garage to my office, both arms filled with stuff when it happened.  I felt it before I even saw it.  For some inexplicable reason, my right shoe decided that it had been tied long enough and it gave up the ghost.  It just came untied.  There was no place to stop, set down my load, and re-tie the shoe and so I shuffled my way to my office, fearful that my shoe was about to slide off my foot at any moment.  I hate when stuff like that happens.  Everything seems to be going along nice and smooth and then suddenly something changes.


For most of us the problem is greater than a shoe that won’t stay tied.  Such a problem is easily fixed.  It’s the other disruptions that tend to bring us more than our fair share of angst and worry.  Take for example when the IRS sends a little note in the mail telling you that there were some errors with your return.  Or what about the phone call from the auto repair place telling you that you need new rotors along with the brake pads?  Or what about when the school nurse calls to let you know your sweet little daughter is throwing up like she could star in the new filming of The Exorcist?  I always feel for the poor guy who has the wreck on the interstate during the morning commute.  Obviously his day is not going to flow smoothly.


The disruptions will come.  And when they do, our once, well-ordered lives struggle to find footing again.  Let’s talk about the really big, life-altering kind of disruptions that sometimes land at our front door.  What if the phone call is from your doctor and she tells you that there are some irregularities with the blood work?  What if the market drops and suddenly your plans for retirement get put on hold for a few more long years?  What if you get a call from a friend telling you that a former class-mate just ended his life?  What happens when you are cruising along with your arms are filled with the constant baggage of daily routine and suddenly a huge storm blows into your life?  What then?  Where can you set down your load long enough to grieve and think and find shelter?


I think the key is in relationships.  We simply cannot afford to walk through life all alone.  Listen to the admonition of Scripture.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)  We were made to live in community with each other.  We were never meant to take on the disruptions by ourselves.  It’s part of the reason that Jesus said when speaking about His departure from earth, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” (John 14:16-17)  Through the work of His Spirit, God has made it possible for us to never be alone.  His Spirit indwells our lives continually.  We can never find ourselves in a place, no matter how dark, nor how scary, where the Spirit can’t minister to us.


But let’s be honest, as good as that promise is, sometimes we need flesh and blood to hold our hands, wipe our tears, and hug our necks.  We need the Word to become flesh.  In order to have such a person in our lives, we have to risk, invest, and offer compassion.  We tend to gain friends as we offer ourselves to others in an act of friendship.  And so we have to risk a relationship.  We have to risk being vulnerable, being betrayed, and even being rejected.  Not everyone is going to be the Godly person you need, but until you risk giving yourself away you will not find that one special relationship.  We also have to invest.  Relationships take time and effort.  They take being inconvenienced at times or offering emotional energy at other moments.  We tend to get out of a relationship what we put into a relationship.  And yes, we have to offer compassion.  Friendships are forged on the anvil of thoughtful deed and loving attention.  And though many of us might boast in the number of Facebook friends we have on our social media accounts, we should really count ourselves blessed if we have those one or two people in the world who will always help, always pray, and always come to our aid.


You can count on life getting a little messy.  Your world is going to get untied from time to time.  I pray that when it does, your friends will be there to pick you up.  And I also pray that when called upon to do so, you will be there to help your friend tie his shoe when his arms are too full and his life is too painful.


Seeing the Face of God


Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Executive Director

unknown-3 Check out these verses from the story of ancient Israel as they gathered around Mount Sinai…


“Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” Exodus 24:9-10

You may want to read those two verses again.  Seventy-four men go up to Mount Sinai and there they “saw the God of Israel.”  It’s not the kind of thing that happens every day.  These men, in some magnificent, mysterious, glorious way were able to catch a glimpse of God.  They even described the pavement of sapphire
on which He walked.  (I know what you’re thinking… I thought no one could look on God and live.  That’s usually the case.  But God can certainly reveal Himself to whomever He chooses in whatever way He chooses.  And at least on this day, God was seen by the elders of Israel.)  Don’t you know that this image never left their hearts or minds for as long as they lived.  How many times did they tell the story of this day?
Let’s be honest, catching a glimpse of Almighty God is a rare thing.  I have not seen His face, nor has anyone else that I know.  I do hope to look on His face one day when His Son introduces me to Him in glory… but that’s a different devotional thought for another day.  Today I’m more concerned about seeing the face of God in the everyday lives we live.  The truth of the matter is that we CAN see Him each day if we know where to look.  God inhabits His creation.  And so God is revealed to us in tiny glimpses through the faces of people that we encounter.  How’s that for a thought… a little of God is present in every face we see.  If that is true, then God can be seen in the faces of rich and powerful as well as the faces of the poor and powerless.  He’s present in the face of that homeless guy selling papers on the corner.  He’s present in the face of that unwed pregnant girl at the shelter.  He’s present in the face of that troubled teenager you are raising and in the face of the senior adult at the nursing home.  And yes, He is even seen in the face that stares back at you from the mirror.  And if that is true… then suddenly your face and the face of the billions who share the planet take on a whole new worth.  What a glorious day it would be today, if you and I really began to see others the way that God does.  What if we looked closely enough to even see His resemblance?

To see His face today will require several things.  We have look beyond our first-impression judgment of others.  We cannot see color, nationality, nor gender if doing so clouds our vision.  We have to hear beyond language. If we think God only speaks English we are mistaken.  We also have to look beyond our long-formed impression of others.  History and experience with an individual cannot be allowed to blind us to the image of God within them.  So look closely today at the faces you see.  You may just catch a glimpse of your Father.


An Important Announcement

The Belmont University Institute for Innovative Faith-Based Leadership is excited to announce a weekly podcast that will offer insight, inspiration and information about matters of faith, leadership and culture.

Consistent with our mission statement, these weekly podcasts will endeavor to speak to relevant issues in culture, relational issues in community and resourceful ideas in funding. From time to time the podcast will feature interesting interviews with authors, theologians and community leaders who visit the Belmont campus.

Hosted by Executive Director Dr. Jon Roebuck, each podcast will be available for download from our website beginning very soon!

I Can’t Find A Bible I Like…



-Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Executive Director

The picture above this article shows my favorite Bible.  It’s a leather-bound New American Standard New Testament.  As you can tell, it’s been with me for a while.  It has traveled the world with me.  It has joined me for countless graveside services.  It has stood with me in the pulpit for the better part of two decades.  But, as you can tell, it’s getting a little worn and weary.  Not only has most of the leather cover “given up the ghost,” but any day now, the thin threads that hold the Book of James together are going to fail.  (James’ connection between faith and works might get a little disconnected!)


I have tried for a long time to replace it with a similar Bible.  This particular edition went out of print a long time ago.  I like the size, the feel of leather in my hands, and the easy-to-read font.  I just haven’t been able to find anything close, and believe me, I have searched.  I am also a fan of the New Living Translation.  Trying to find a leather-bound New Testament in that translation has proved to be quite a challenge as well.  Sure, there are a lot of choices out there with plenty of colors, covers, and font choices, but so far, I can’t find the Bible I like.


A lot of people I know are struggling with the same issue, although in a different kind of way.  It seems these days that a lot of people have grown uncomfortable with the Bible they once held in their hands.  The pull of modern culture and the demands of being relevant have forced many to look for truth and moral direction in other places.  Feeling the pressure of societal acquiescence, pluralistic thought, and even political agenda has forced many to shelve their Bibles with the thought, “It was certainly good for a while, but not anymore.  It’s too outdated and too restrictive for this day and age.”  I beg to differ.


What becomes outdated and out-of-touch is not the truth of Scripture, but rather our limited interpretations of it.  Rather than read the Bible with fresh eyes, open minds, and compassionate hearts, we dive into the text looking for a proof text to justify some judgmental ideology, a club to beat up some wayward sinner, or a verse to help us claim moral superiority over those whose opinions and thoughts don’t align with those of our own.  What we have forgotten is that we go to the Scriptures to discover the love, grace, and redemption of our Savior, not to justify our stances.  It is almost as though we would rather change what the Bible says, than be changed by the Bible.


Whether I like it or not the Bible says these things:  Love all of your neighbors, care for widows and orphans in their time of distress, welcome the sojourner to your land, pray for your government leaders, turn your cheek to your enemy who strikes you, pursue justice, end hatred, embrace mercy, feed the poor, clothe the naked, sell what you have and give to those in need, proclaim release to the captives, and set free those who are downtrodden.  It does not say that it’s okay to sell your convictions for the sake political party alignment.  It does not condone the abuse of women.  It does not look the other way at crude and course conversation.  It does not marginalize immigrants or promote racial superiority.  It does not applaud greed.  It does not celebrate infidelity.  It does not give approval to deception.


So if you are looking for a Bible with which to destroy your opponents, justify hatred, sanction prejudice, or promote avarice, you won’t find it.  The Bible you are looking for simply does not exist.  The only one you will find will demand that you, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)  Maybe it is not a new Bible you need, but more time to read the old one.