Monday, September 18, 2017
Bo Jackson was my boyhood idol. I wanted all things "Bo." Baseball cards, bats, caps, gloves, shoes, jerseys... if he endorsed it... I wanted it. I specifically remember a shirt I had that had his Los Angeles Raiders #34 and his name printed on the back. I loved that shirt. I can still picture it today. I wore it all the time because I wanted to be just like Bo. When I wore that shirt, I pretended to be him. I practiced hitting the baseball in his stance. I tried perfecting his swing. When I went out for little league, I picked out his Kansas City Royals #16. In every baseball game and football game I played, I tried to mimic his every move. His likeness inspired me. I wanted to be just like the great Vincent Edward (Bo) Jackson.
What is it about likenesses? Why are we so drawn to be like others? To get the answer, we must go back to the beginning.
At creation, man was created after God's own likeness. He made us to be like Him (Gen. 1:26a, 27a). God wanted a special being with which He could fellowship. He wanted us to have common qualities with Him, so he created us in His own image. But... we ruined His plan. Eve was deceived to believe she could be more like God than He intended her to be. She was discontent. She wanted more. When she and Adam took of the fruit, sin entered into God's perfect design and ruined the special relationship we had with God Himself. Consequently, sin separated us from Him and our fellowship with Him was broken. No longer did we desire righteousness. No longer did we look to Him. Sinful mankind took His place, and we began to look to each other as an avenue to attain God-like attributes. Conclusively then, the sin of discontentment tempts man to think that there is more purpose for him beyond his created purpose of having fellowship with God. It is our sinful nature that directs us to fallen men in attempt to discover that false sense of purpose. From my youthful, sinful perspective, being like Bo Jackson would have made me better. He was a god in my life, and I desired to be like him.
Even after such a heinous act of betrayal, God continued to love us. Despite our sin, He still desires us to be like Him. He desires to fellowship with us, but in order for it to resume, our sin has to be removed. For this to happen, He had to humble Himself and come down to earth in the likeness of man (Phil. 2:7-9). This had to happen so He could die a sinless death for us and provide a way of salvation, beginning the restoration process. Ironically, He created us to be like Him... but in the end, He selflessly chose to become like us to redeem us. How many of the people whom we place on pedestals are willing to do the same? We can try with all of our being to be like God, but we will always fail unless we trust Him as our Savior. Only then can we begin to live to become more like Him.
After salvation, we should show our love back to God by taking on Jesus' likeness. I John 2:6 says that if (conditional) we have trusted Jesus as our Savior (abide in Him), then we should "walk as He walked." In other words, we should be like Him. Jesus was kind, compassionate, loving, patient, gentle, truthful, generous, selfless and a perfect example of righteous living. We can never attain perfection, but we should always be striving to be more and more like Christ every day. The more we strive to be like Him, the closer our fellowship with God will be. As long as you strive to grow closer to Him each day, the fellowship will continue to get sweeter and sweeter until the day you see Him eye to eye... the day when that restoration process is completed.
The whole reason God created us to be in His likeness was for the purpose of having fellowship with Him. Our sin, however, came between us. The conditions for a restored fellowship lies in the salvation of man's soul and our desire to "walk as He walked." Do we desire a restored fellowship with our Creator? Following after sinful men won't put us on the path to that restoration. Only by trusting Christ and walking as He walked will accomplish it.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
This time of year is definitely an emotional roller coaster for the administrator of a Christian school. The end of the year is quickly approaching and we look back on all the successes of the last 10 months. Academic programs, fine arts competitions, educator's conferences, legislative tasks, Christmas programs, Spirit Week, achievement testing, classroom activities, administrative accomplishments, student progress… the list could go on. This year’s staff has been the best one ever—a team of dedicated, hard-working, enthusiastic teachers who have sacrificed so much for such little monetary compensation. Our students have excelled academically and – I’d like to say—spiritually over the past school year. Grades are up, spirits are high and camaraderie is at its peak. All in all… it has been a fantastic year. The best one yet in our 13-year existence.
All that said, what could possibly get me down? Well, it’s commitment time. The time of year when our current parents begin returning letters of intent for the next school year. Because of our feeble operating budget, we have to know early on how many students we should expect to invest in. Will we need another teacher? Will we need additional staff to handle the number of students enrolled? Or, God forbid, will we be forced to let a teacher go because of lower enrollment? And for the record…There’s never enough quality staff on board in any Christian ministry, but in ministries like ours, decisions are often affected by financial outlooks. That is why we prepare. That is our due diligence.
Parents often look back at the sacrifice they have made each year and weigh out the positives and negatives of sending their students to our academy. Almost always, the positives outweigh the negatives and families recommit with no qualms. Most of those negatives have nothing to do with the quality of education or the spiritual stimulation offered. Most reasoning for leaving our school is financial hardships. For others it’s location— seeing many drive a good distance to bring in their children. For others, it may just be a difference of philosophy. All these reasons are mulled over by parents during the month we give them to pray and seek God’s wisdom about recommitting to another year.
That month of prayer is for them, but more importantly, it is for the school. I have no doubt that Christian education is essential for every believing, God-fearing family. But those parents who deem the sacrifice too big to send their students to our school and choose another path, I consider it a blessing to see them depart. I don't say that cruelly. Yes, there is reason to be sad when families depart and say farewell to us. But God is in control and I am confident He will bless our school with the right families each and every year. We will minister to them as they come and we will pray for them as they go. And certainly, for those who leave... we will continue to love and them help them as much as we are able. That said, I want to minister to families that God directs to us for that particular year. My prayer is, and has been for the last few years, that God sends us the right families each year. And if that means we lose some, then I feel that is exactly the scenario God will bless. The Christian school will always see people come and go for whatever reason. God is in every decision and our academy will have exactly who He wants there every year. We are always hopeful that His plan includes more and more students each year, but regardless of enrollment, we will pour ourselves into whomever God places with us.
Truthfully though, as a Christian educator, I desire families who value what we do. Those who see the daily sacrifices our teachers and staff make on behalf of their students. Those who desire a staff that prays for and is truly concerned with each student’s academic and spiritual growth. Yes, it saddens me, that even after all the prayers, financial aid, personal time and great effort that we invest into individual families each year, they choose to walk away—stating reasons that are illogical to me. When they say, “We can’t afford it,” God hears, “My kids aren’t worth that sacrifice.” When they say, “The drive is too long,” God hears, “My kids aren’t worth that sacrifice.” You see… just about every reason the Christian uses to excuse himself from the obligation of Christian schooling comes down to the cost (not always money either). The sacrifice it takes to properly “train up a child in the way he should go” comes in various forms. The question then, which begs asking is: what kind of sacrifice are you willing to make to see you child receive an education at the Christian school? And... Is it worth it?
Before we answer those questions, let's venture into the realm of the "why's?" That is, reasons why families walk away from solid Christian schooling. So, here goes. Is there ever a good reason to leave a good Christian school? Yes.
First, those who desire to home school. Home schooling done properly is the very best choice, even above the Christian school. But it is imperative that the home educator is capable and dedicated to seeing it done right. All too often we receive students who have come from failed home-schooled settings where there is no structure or discipline in seeing out the completion of school work and managing student assignments. They are turned over to us for a year or two to repair the damage, and then they are ripped from our grasp to save a few dollars by resuming the home schooled method.
My wife and her siblings were products of home-schooling, but her mother did it right. They graduated with more education than I received in my public schooling. They were involved in home school groups and they had structure in the home to make sure the children's school work was completed well each day. Were there short-comings? Probably, as my mother-in-law would admit; but nonetheless, it was effective. So, if done effectively, I believe home education is the best option, as my wife and her family are living proof.
But in our time as Christian school educators, we have also seen our fair share of those students who have fallen victim to the home-school experiment. We have dealt with parents who were completely incapable of handling the task of home educating their kids. Often there were too many school-aged kids in the home who were at different grade levels, and mom had to juggle the multi-grade instruction while also managing housework, and taking care of younger siblings not yet of school age. Not an impossible task, but daunting to say the least. There were others who offered their children no structure whatsoever. Mom would sleep in until ten or eleven in the morning and let the children make up their own schedule, just so long as the work got done. Often, quality of work was an afterthought... again, just so long as it was done. Other common trend we see comes when the parent may not be educated enough themselves to teach the more difficult subjects. They “wing it” resulting in a failure to properly translate the knowledge to the child. So from one end of the spectrum to the other we have: Capable, dedicated families who succeed. Families who make the attempt, and drown in good intentions. And the families who do the bare minimum for the sake of getting by. If you choose the path of homeschooling your children, be sure you fall into the first group. If you find homeschooling easy, it's probable you are not doing it right.
Another acceptable scenario for parents to withdraw their students from a Christian school is when families relocate. My hope is that parents would seek a similar learning environment when they leave us due to job relocation, because consistency is a very important element in a child's education. I feel that when relocating and changing schools, only schools that are of like faith and practice are acceptable choices. If the place you've had to relocate to doesn't have said school, don't move there. Move to a place where there is a good, local church-based school. Maybe you have to travel to get to work or maybe you have to drive a ways to get your kids to a good Christian school, but either way...get your kids in that school! Make that sacrifice.
What is really troubling is when we see families move to areas just outside a comfortable driving distance from us and then enroll their kids into a public school. Many times it’s because the public tax dollar is able to offer more in way of sports, clubs and more. Maybe the excuse is that they want more of a social atmosphere for their kids. We've heard it all. Then— without a doubt— parents justify it by saying, "They'll be fine. They had some great foundations at your school, and they'll use that to build upon in the public school." Unfortunately, that's not the way it usually works. The liberal teaching philosophies in the public classroom are designed to destroy that Christian foundation, not build upon it. Of all the students who left our academy during their high school years, only two stayed true to the faith we helped establish in them. So let's not kid ourselves. Your child probably isn't the exception. The comparison I always use is this: when thrown into a bushel of rotten apples, the good apples don't preserve the rotten. They, too, succumb to the rottenness of the environment.
Finally, having a difference of philosophy is reason to withdraw from Christian school. Academically or in doctrine, if the school is violating scripture or biblical principles, then there is cause for exiting that institution. However, it would probably be wise to have a meeting with the headmaster or founding pastor and discuss the issues before jumping immediately to the side of being offended. Sit down with the school's authority and find out if the school is in the wrong or if you are in the wrong. Often times, what we assume to be differences in philosophy is really just misunderstanding or miscommunication between parties. I know that our academy takes great strides in seeing our academics and spiritual programs line up with scripture, but we are never too proud to hear out a parent who has taken up issue with any doctrine we teach.
So…. Are there other good reasons to leave a solid, academically- and spiritually-sound Christian school? Perhaps... but they are few. It really all comes down to sacrifice. Having your children attend a Christian school is just that... a sacrifice. Remember, the whole concept of a sacrifice is that it is not easy nor is it cheap and there is no commitment without sacrifice. Those not willing to make the commitment are those who are not willing to make the necessary sacrifice. If you Trust God, He will provide the appropriate strength and resources. He always does. The real question parents must ask is… "What kind of sacrifice am I willing to make for having my children involved in Christian schooling?" And then, "Are my kids worth that sacrifice?" I can't answer the first question for you, but as to the second query... My answer is, "You better believe it!"
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
In 1939, Academy award-winning director Frank Capra, produced and directed a film starring Jimmy Stewart entitled Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the film, Stewart’s character, Jefferson Smith, goes to Washington D.C. as a wide-eyed idealist completely naïve to the political process. In the end, Smith stands behind his convictions and elicits change in the capital’s business-as-usual attitude.
In mid-September, I too, went to Washington. It was my first time visiting our capital city, and like Smith, I was wide-eyed and naïve.
Over the years, I have had a growing interest in politics and the process by which our government operates. I had some knowledge – what one gets from civics classes and news sources– but my time in D.C. really allowed me to gain a better grasp on our federal government and how our Founders intended it to operate.
The purpose of my visit was to spend a week on Capitol Hill lobbying on behalf of the Buckeye Christian School Organization (BCSO) and the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS). We talked with several congressmen and congresswomen from Ohio as well as a few Senator's legislative aids. We addressed the threats we feel are coming to our rights as Christian institutions. We spoke our concerns about government over-reach in early education. We touched on a proposed amendment (First Amendment Defense Act) that would protect our freedom to stand behind the institution of traditional marriage. And we stressed the importance of pursuing the proper process of making laws, specifically prohibiting the executive branch from unilaterally enacting or implementing new policies in regards to the definitions of "gender" and "gender identity" (Civil Rights Uniformity Act of 2016).
"RESTORE THE WALLS, AND REPAIR THE FOUNDATIONS."
All the meetings were very cordial, even the ones where the representatives and senators were of opposite opinions. All expressed a gratefulness to us for coming in person to express the opinions of all those we represent.
One common theme throughout the week that evidenced itself was this:
(1) Washington is not the problem. Yes, I did just say that. For what I saw on Capitol Hill was our representatives and senators fighting for what they feel is the consensus opinion of their constituencies. They are all fighting for what they believe is truth as stated by those they represent. So, Washington, is operating –for the most part– as it has been designed to operate by our founders.
(2) The problem is us. We, as Christians, know the truth, but we have failed to express it to our children. We talk a good talk, but our walk is not consistent with our talk. We KNOW the TRUTH. We know morals and standards (or at least we should). The Bible gives us these clearly. But we have failed to live them out personally and our children have followed our examples. This generational pattern has placed us in our current state of moral decline.
Don't buy into the argument that Washington is full of crooks. They are not all that way. As a matter of fact, we were presented with this fact: "The 114th Congress has the most believers on the Hill now than the last 20 [years]." There has been a revival of sorts in our capital. Weekly church services are being held in our Capitol Building where dozens of legislators meet, pray and sing. I actually had the awesome opportunity to partake in one of these services. I truly felt the Spirit of God come down as these men pleaded with God to save our country. We ended the service by lifting our voices in the famous rotunda to sing God Bless America. I still get goose bumps recalling that evening. God is moving in the hearts of our leaders.
This past week, I heard from many of those believing congressional leaders on the importance of re-establishing the home and the church. In the legislative briefing we attended, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rep. Barry Loudermilk (Georgia), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kansas) and Rep. Vicki Hartzler (Missouri) all resounded the same theme: The Church and Christians are failing American freedoms. We are losing our religious liberties because we do not take a stand for them. We say we believe certain principles, but we are doing nothing to preserve them. All the while, a minority group that represents less than three percent of our population pushes their agenda using persistence and volume. We Christians, need to take the same approach. Maintain a pleasant disposition, but take a firm, vocal stand.
That stand begins at home and church by upholding Biblical truths. Our Christian legislators all agree that the paramount struggle in trying to do right on Capitol Hill stems from issues of the constituencies not knowing right from wrong. All referenced Isaiah 5:20, which says “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil.” It is our job as parents and as educators and pastors not only to teach the truth, but to live it as well. We are the ones who shape and mold the generations to come– not our elected officials. Our representatives can only work with the cards we deal them. There are many God-fearing leaders in our capital, and they are begging us, the people, to teach our next generation the TRUTH of GOD's WORD.
That is how we preserve our great land. Teach the Truth. That Truth is evident in our founding documents as well as on all the monuments and inscriptions around the city. The church can only do so much. Christians have a duty to retell the stories of our heritage and teach the truth of Scripture. Keep your children accountable to the truth of God's Word by setting the example and following it yourself. Attending church once a week and calling yourself a righteous member of society doesn't cut it. Don't just say you're a Christian... BE ONE.
In Representative Hartzler’s congressional office, she has these words posted: “Restore the walls and repair the foundations…” It is her personal mission statement based on Ezra 4:12. It is her desire to get our nation to remember its Godly heritage, but she warned that this can only happen if God’s people take up that cross. America’s future is in our hands. So, what are you doing personally to ensure the Truth prospers once again in our great nation?
We, like Mr. Smith, can elicit change in Washington if we stand behind our conviction of teaching the Truth of God’s Word to the next generation. If we do that, Washington will be forced to abandon the status quo attitude of business-as-usual. This will be the first step in restoring our walls and repairing our foundation.
Monday, February 6, 2017
If you are married, the title of this blog probably caught your attention. Well, with Valentine's Day soon approaching and with "love being in the air"... these are my thoughts from within...
The general opinion of marriage today is that it is difficult. It takes a lot of hard work to sustain. That it is not always so blissful. In fact, the hard work that is said it takes to make a marriage work is often cited as the reason so many marriages end in divorce.
After our wedding, I remember a certain couple who- week after week- kept asking my wife and I if "the honeymoon was over," suggesting that the happiness we were enjoying would wane over time. Both my wife and I were very disheartened at this suggestion. Not because we feared our joy would lessen over time, but because everyone else- it seemed- shared the same outlook on their marriage. But for my wife and me, it hasn't come to that. In thirteen years, our passion for each other hasn't weakened. Do we always agree? No. But we always get along. We always put the other first. We both make sacrifices for each other, so in that regard it is work... but I wouldn't say it's hard work by any means. Especially if you understand the idea of sacrificial love. The same love our Savior extended to each of us and his bride, the church.
The idea that so many people, especially those who claim to be Christians, struggle in their marriages still perplexes me. Over time, I have seen many marriages struggle or even fall apart- including the above-mentioned couple- and here is the common factor: No sacrifice.
Men don't want to sacrifice their "me" time. Women don't want to sacrifice their "me" time. Often they have separate desires. They desire things instead of each other and this materialism separates the couple even further. More often than not, the focus never shifts from self to spouse when vows are exchanged.
Before I married, I enjoyed many things. I hung out with my roommates in college and enjoyed their company. We played video games, attended ballgames, played intramural sports, and golfed. I even enjoyed time by myself, away from my buddies and people in general. I longed for these moments of entertainment and peace, but when my wife and I exchanged our vows, God completed me and He changed my desires. Though I did still enjoy my friendships and hobbies, my longing for them decreased. When friends wanted me to spend time with them after I married, I discovered that I became eager for that time to end so I could return to my bride. Even the perspective of my hobbies changed. I began to enjoy them more when doing them in the company of my wife as opposed to doing them with my buddies. It got to the point that I no longer wanted to hang out with them. No longer did I want to spend my free time playing video games or sports. Instead, I wanted to spend all my time with my bride. I wanted to embrace our relationship and discover new things about her everyday. Even though I had known her since I was thirteen years old, I just felt as though there was more I needed to discover.
I have known my wife for 24 years (13 of those married), and I am still learning more and more about her each day. And the more I learn, the more I love. She simply amazes me in every aspect of our life. She works hard. She loves our home and family. She supports me. She trusts me. She accepts me, despite my innumerable failures. She desires to grow spiritually. She desires for me and our children to grow spiritually. She is the epitome of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31.
For my wife and me, it has been a breeze and we are with each other 24/7 (we work together). I don't say that bragging. I say that humbly as simple fact. You don't know how many times we've been asked, "How to you do it? I could never work with my wife/husband." For us, though, it is thoroughly enjoyable and we wouldn't want it any other way.
There are so many biblical exhortations on sustaining a Godly marriage throughout the New Testament (See Eph. 5:22-33; I Pet. 3:1-7), but sadly, they are not applied by most Christian couples. The biggest, and mostly missed, application is that of sacrifice. Just like Jesus Christ gave of Himself for his bride, we too must give sacrificially of ourselves to our spouse. If we view marriage in the light of, "What have you done for me lately," we've missed the point of the union. Instead, ask, "What can I do for you today?" Shift the focus from self to spouse. Put yourself (and your desires) aside and replace it with (God first and then) your spouse (and their desires). That is the only way the honeymoon doesn't end.
Monday, January 16, 2017
"One of the hardest duties to handle as a leader is that of delegation; because- too often- the passion he has for seeing a task performed exceptionally well is not shared by those to whom he has delegated it. But a good leader will recognize his limitations and delegate anyway, always taking note of who can be trusted and who cannot. So, if one is called upon over and over again to assigned tasks... he should consider that a compliment and a testament of his trustworthy character. Conversely, if he is never called upon for a delegated task, perhaps his trustworthiness has been called into question." --Anonymous
Having worked in a leadership position of a ministry for thirteen years, I haven't always had an easy time giving over responsibility to others. I get it honestly. My dad, a pastor of 30 years, had a difficult time with this for the first half of his service. His mindset -as was mine- was: "If you want something done right, just do it yourself."
There is a two-fold problem with that logic. First, you assume that your way is the only "right" way of doing something. It comes across as haughty and arrogant, and others are less likely to want to help in fear of falling short of your unattainable expectations. Second, with this mindset, you will have to do everything yourself. For those in the ministry for any length of time, you understand that the latter point is the quickest way to burn yourself out. You will become weak and "weary in well-doing" in no time.
We can learn from the adage, "Do more by doing less yourself." There is much truth in this paradox. It does not say "Do more by doing less." That last word yourself is ever-so important. It implies that growth will happen once we get others involved. Delegation if you will.
Once my dad relinquished some of his innumerable ministerial tasks to others, the growth of our church and its ministries commenced.
It is important to note that finding the right people to trust is key. It is also a learning process. One must be very diligent in observing people and recognizing their talents. Discovering who is reliable and who is not is not as taunting a task as it may seem. As my experiences have dictated, there are those who are not reliable. They want to help (with all good intentions), but never follow through on anything. They take charge of a ministry only to quit it a few months in. They tackle a task and months later, it still has not been completed. But then there are those who, when you delegate a task to them, exceed your expectations and you discover that the job was done far better than if you had done it to the best of your own ability.... going to prove that your way is not always the "right" or "best" way.
As I continue to learn how to delegate and to whom I should delegate tasks, I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 9:10. It is my life verse. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, wither thou goest." My mindset is to always do my best. Never to quit. I also apply this to delegation. When I find that I can do more by doing less myself... I will find those who are trustworthy and dependable and who share the same mindset found in Ecclesiastes 9:10. It's how things get done efficiently and effectively.
Friday, July 10, 2015
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because his deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." --John 3:19-21
We cannot expect those who don't believe physical truth to accept spiritual truth, yet we, as Christians, shake our heads in disappointment when our lost society embraces sin. The fact of the matter is that their conformity to sinful standards should be expected. No greater examples of this can be given than recent news headliners Bruce Jenner, Rachel Dolezal and our Supreme Court.
Here's the physical truth: Bruce Jenner is a man. Rachel Dolezal is white and our Supreme Court justices are not law-makers. Jenner was created a man. Dolezal was created white. The Supreme Court was created to interpret laws-- not make them. Despite these indisputable facts, people now believe Jenner is a woman, Dolezal is black and the Supreme Court justices are law-makers... all because they say they are. This is nothing more than rejection of truth. A product of moral relativity-- the idea that each person is responsible for deeming what is right and wrong for himself without using a moral compass. More than just accepting these fallacies as truth, the lost masses have embraced and praised these individuals as heroic leaders who bring awareness to their cause.
It is easy to understand why the Christian sulks following public displays that reject physical, obvious truths, including the disappointing Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and homosexual marriage. Admittedly, I was also in the camp of discouragement. What are we to do, when the darkness of this present world distorts the truth?
The Apostle Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:14-16. "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain."
We are to shineWe have the truth. We adhere to the physical truths that surround us because we understand and embrace the spiritual truths of God's Word. These spiritual truths can only be understood after salvation. The only way the lost world will ever see a matter in a spiritual context is for them to "come to the light." Our job is not to judge the lost, rather we are to be a light for Christ that they may come to Him. Let us be loving. Let us shine the light of the Savior. But how? By "holding forth the word of life." All the answers to man's problems are found in the Bible. We must read it, meditate on it, memorize it, study it and make it the basis for every response to worldly issues. In scripture we find not only the answers to these questions, but we also find the manner in which we should present those answers-- with boldness, with love, with compassion, with understanding, etc.
Being effective lightsJohn 3:21 implies that those who have been saved will separate themselves from the darkness. Truth doers "come" to the light. Separation is the key. We are not to stay in darkness once we have found the light. A Christian should eliminate all ungodly influences and affiliations in his life. It may seem contradictory to be separated according to the above verse in Philippians 2 where we are instructed to "shine as lights in the world," but we must distinguish between being in the world and being of the world. We are not to be of the world. In other words, we are not to do the sinful things normalized and accepted by those worldly influences. Getting us to conform to socially accepted "norms" is the goal of those residing in darkness. Conversely, we are to behave in a biblical manner despite the social acceptance of such sinful actions.
Here's an example of biblical separation...I was amazed at how many brands and companies voiced their support of the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage. The local news showed tweets and Facebook posts from many Fortune 500 companies that endorsed the decision. (I've always wondered why certain businesses felt compelled to voice their political positions on social issues. I didn't know it was necessary to run a business.) What would happen if everyone who claims salvation were to stop doing business with all the companies that publicly embrace sin? It would send a message. The loss of revenue would make them think twice about supporting divisive social issues. That lack of support would quiet the movement. Remember, abstaining from doing business with a company that voices support of sin is not the same as relocating yourself and your family to a log cabin in a remote corner of Montana. Biblical separation is removing the link between you and the sin, not removing yourself to a place of seclusion. Remember that a light shines brightest in darkness. It's hard to see any light when darkness is absent.
Conclusion...We cannot expect the lost to discern spiritual truths when they can't even discern physical truths. They have lost the cognitive ability to recognize either. Our response must not be one of judgment. We must remember to view them as they are... sinners who sin. Our response to their sinful behavior shouldn't be mean-spirited or harsh, rather we are to show love and shine as lights for Christ by holding forth God's Word. Being that light to them should be our only objective, for it is their only hope.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
The Trainer and His Objective
The role of a trainer is to prepare another participant for a future engagement. Trainers are to provide the trainee with tools for interacting during that engagement when it arises. If successfully trained, the trainee will use those tools to effect the outcome desired of the trainer. Therefore, it can be assumed that the trainee's performance is a direct reflection of his training, but even more so of the one providing the training... the trainer.
The Christian Trainer
If you, as a believer, have children, then you are a spiritual trainer regardless of whether or not you desire to be. The parent is either training proactively by obeying God's Word, or he is training myopically (unwittingly) by ignoring God's Word.
So often we hear Proverbs 22:6-- "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it"-- and we tie it to Biblical obedience. We all understand that the verse denotes that instilling God's law from His Word into a child will effect obedience to it when he matures to independence. All this is the practical application of the verse, but have we ever considered the connotative, myopic training the same verse implies? The other side of the coin, if you will?
If we fail to lead and train our children spiritually by using God's Word as our guide, then we are choosing to train them by ignoring it. My dad always said, "Choosing not to choose is a choice in itself." That saying stuck with me and it came to my recollection the moment my children began to mimic the things they heard and saw within the walls of our home. It was then my wife and I had to choose to whole-heartedly be proactive in the spiritual training of our children.
Being a Christian educator has been extremely helpful in my own journey as a parent. For twelve years, my wife and I have seen other parents precede us in child-rearing. Some have done well in equipping their child's spiritual tool bag. Others not so much.
What a teacher hears and observes from students behind classroom doors reveals so much about the training sessions performed in the home. When the child of a Sunday school teacher or Christian ministry worker walks the hall reciting lyrics of a current pop song, we can infer training methods in the home conflict with those the Christian school or church tries to instill. Supposed "Christian" parents allow improper music, movies, friends, television shows and video games to influence their children, and the results evidence that myopic training. Over the years, parents who were thought to be strong spiritually have been discovered to be otherwise. Their children have shown little spiritual fruit; rather, their lack of respect for authority, their constant chatter of worldly entertainment, their use of foul language, their thanklessness and lack of desire for singing praises to God, their deceitfulness and dishonesty, their boldness and lack of conviction for their sin... these are all evidences we regularly observe that indicate improper training at home.
So here's where the rubber meets the road. The flipped side of the coin that is Proverbs 22:6 can be summed up like this: The training you choose to implement in your home, whether it be good or bad, will effect results. Those training in ignorance of God's Word will see results reflecting that choice. Their children will take the way in which the parents have unwittingly trained him. When those children mature to independence, they will cling to bad influences, which will affect life choices. When that time comes, it won't be the church's fault, nor will it be the pastor's or the Christian school's. It will lie on the shoulders of parents who trained them.
Sadly, the promise of Proverbs 22:6 also has a negative implication. You see, if children in Christian homes have received a myopic training, then the promise is that they (the children) will not depart from it (the poor way). This too, we have observed. Students enter upper junior high and high school, and rebel and digress into an anti-Christian mind-set. They bolt from the home as soon as they are of age and ruin their life through drugs, alcohol, violence, crime, having children out of wedlock and more. Parents then ask why and shake their heads in disbelief and are completely oblivious to fact that it was their own training initiatives that are to blame.
There are No Perfect Trainers
No parent we have observed (including ourselves) has executed perfectly the will of God in his child's spiritual training. Doing so is nearly an impossible task. Striving to do it to the best of our ability should be the ultimate goal. No doubt, there will be times when we come up short in an area, but the child will be less likely to remember those shortcomings if he sees that we are consistently striving to attain Biblical guidance for him.
Is There any Hope for the Poorly Trained?
We've all heard the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," and we all know that's not true. It just takes a willing dog and a willing trainer. What we can take from this old adage is that it is hard to teach that old dog new tricks. Why do you suppose Proverbs 22:6 focuses on the child? Well, children are easily trained. Anyone with children knows this first-hand. They pick up on things quickly and easily. But this is not so for an older person who is set in his way-- the way he was trained to go. Can an older individual be retrained to obey God consistently? Yes, but the task will be much more difficult, because you have to reprogram the memory of the previous training. Unfortunately, memory is said to be the strongest muscle of the body.
The time we have with our children is short. Are we making the best of that precious time to strengthen their spiritual walk, or are we hindering it. We have either chosen to properly train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord through obedience to His Word, or we have chosen to train them by ignoring that same Word and minimizing the sins which doth so easily beset us. There will come a day when you will see the effect that your training has had on your children. I pray to see more young adult believers living sanctified, holy lives in the coming years. This prayer, though, isn't as much for the trainee as it is for the trainer! May God burden us as Christian parents to be proactive spiritual trainers in the home.